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The Opening-up of the Financial Industry

Over the past 20-odd years, China's financial institutions in the special economic zones, coastal open cities and inland central cities have approved a range of wholly foreign-owned and Chinese-foreign joint venture financial institutions. Every year since 2002, China has increased the number of cities where foreign banks are allowed to handle RMB business, and within five years such banks will be allowed to handle RMB business in any city. At the end of 2004, the total assets of foreign financial institutions in China reached over US$47 billion; foreign banks were allowed to handle RMB business in 16 areas, and 62 foreign banks from 19 countries and regions set up 191 business institutions in China, of which 116 were approved to handle RMB business. There were 211 foreign bank branches in China.

The CSRC has approved the establishment of 13 Sino-foreign equity joint venture fund management companies, and started to formally handle the application of establishment of joint venture fund management companies with a maximum 49 percent foreign share; the CIRC declared that: from December 11, 2004 on, foreign insurance companies could handle health insurance, group insurance, life insurance and annuity insurance businesses; regional restrictions on establishing wholly foreign-funded insurance institutions were canceled and the proportion of the foreign share in joint venture insurance agencies was allowed to reach 51 percent.

Foreign banks have expanded their China-related business scope. In November 2003, the CBRC started to implement new policies, e.g., permitting foreign banks to provide RMB services to all kinds of Chinese enterprises in areas with open RMB business (previously, these banks' RMB services were restricted to foreign-funded enterprises, foreigners and people from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan in cities with open RMB business). The new policy also encourages qualified international strategic investors to join the restructuring and reforming of China's banking and financial institutions on a voluntary and commercial basis.

Meanwhile, all China's commercial banks have set up branches overseas, and started an international credit business. The Bank of China ranks first in the number and scale of overseas outlets. In 1980, China resumed membership of the World Bank, and returned to the International Monetary Fund. In 1984, China started business contacts with the Bank for International Settlements. In 1985, China formally joined the African Development Bank and in 1986 formally became a member of the Asian Development Bank.

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