China to set up new financial watchdog in sweeping reform

BEIJING: China will set up a new national financial regulatory body, replacing its banking and insurance watchdog, as part of a government overhaul announced on Tuesday that includes plans for a national data bureau.

The financial regulation proposal, presented to China’s parliament during its annual meeting, would bring oversight of the industry, excluding the securities sector, into an administration directly under the State Council, or cabinet.

Under the new set-up, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC) will be abolished, with its responsibilities moved to the new administration along with certain functions of the central bank and securities regulator.

As part of the wider government revamp, staff numbers at central level state institutions will be cut by 5%.

“The overhaul of financial regulation framework reflects the new focus on ‘dual circulation’ – both domestic and global circulation of the economy – and ‘uniform national markets’,” said Winston Ma, an adjunct professor at New York University law school.

“Going forward, different financing markets – equity, debt, and insurance – are set to be regulated in a more holistic way, and at the same time financial markets regulation and industry policy making are more integrated than before,” he said.

The legislature will vote on the institutional reform plan on Friday.

China’s financial sector is currently overseen by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), the CBIRC, and the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), with the cabinet’s Financial Stability and Development Committee having overall purview.

The new administration will “strengthen institutional supervision, supervision of behaviours and supervision of functions”, according to the plan.

Under the existing set-up, the CBIRC combined the equivalent functions of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp (FDIC) in the United States, with some regulatory role held by the central bank, said Li Nan, professor of finance at Shanghai Jiaotong University.

“Now all of those regulatory functions are with the new bureau, which is basically CBIRC with some regulatory role taken back from PBOC and CSRC, which makes perfect sense,” she said.

“And the PBOC will become more focused on monetary policy afterwards, which resembles what the Fed does,” she said.

Last week, President Xi Jinping renewed his call for ambitious reforms of party and state institutions. Xi clinched a precedent-breaking third leadership term during a party congress in October, sealing his status as China’s most powerful ruler since Mao Zedong.


The government will also set up a bureau responsible for coordinating the sharing and development of data resources, according to a plan submitted to parliament.

The proposed bureau will be run by the powerful state planner, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), and absorb some of the functions of the Office of the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission, which oversees China’s internet.

The new bureau’s functions will include the exchange of information resources across industries and promoting smart cities.

China has in recent years strengthened oversight over data, motivated by fears that unchecked collection by private firms could allow rival state actors to weaponise information on infrastructure and other national interests, and the belief that data has become a strategic economic resource.

One source at a big Chinese tech firm said the initial impression was that the bureau would be mainly tasked with cultivating the data market and that regulatory functions would remain with bodies such as the Cyberspace Administration of China.

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