China's accelerated steps in further opening its financial sector will draw more foreign banks and firms and will give a major boost to local market efficiency and vitality, according to economists and financial experts.
They commented after Guo Shuqing, chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, disclosed plans to unveil a dozen new measures for further opening-up in the banking and insurance sectors.
"The latest move represents China's more refined and detailed efforts to implement financial opening-up. It also demonstrates its incremental actions to open up its financial industry to the outside world," said Dong Ximiao, associate dean of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.
Dong said asset requirements for foreign banks to set up branches or to be locally incorporated in the country have been removed. The thresholds were previously US$20 billion and US$10 billion, respectively.
"Cancellation of the limit will attract more foreign banks, especially those that are small or medium-sized, which will enrich our market entities," Dong said.
Foreign-funded banks and insurance firms' assets have reached 1.64 percent and 6.36 percent, respectively, of those sectors' totals, Xinhua reported.
"In addition, the arrival of these smaller foreign banks are expected to play an important role in driving the growth of our private and micro and small enterprises," Dong added.
Under the new plans, the upper shareholding limits in a Chinese commercial bank for a single Chinese-funded bank or a single foreign-funded bank will be abolished simultaneously.
Zeng Gang, deputy director-general of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' National Institution for Finance and Development, said that on the one hand, it will remove obstacles for mergers and acquisitions between domestic banks.
"On the other hand, more foreign-funded institutions will be attracted to the local market, which will alleviate the difficulty of some small and medium-sized banks in introducing new shareholders," Zeng said, adding that foreign institutions may become an important capital source for small and medium-sized banks.
Last year, China rolled out 15 opening-up measures in banking and insurance, fueling the entry of many foreign banks and insurance companies or the expansion of their business in the country.
"China's financial opening-up has already drawn a positive market response. This new round of opening-up will forge a level playing market environment for both foreign and domestic firms," Guo said.