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UPDATED: July 16, 2007 NO. 29 JULY 19, 2007
Shanghai Bridging Dreams and Reality
It may look like New York, but the real picture is very different

Meanwhile, the futures market was also prosperous. In terms of the capital market, Shanghai was the third largest stock and bond market following New York and London. Company stocks from all countries could be traded in Shanghai. Without doubt that Shanghai is the cradle of China's financial development.

However, due to World War II, nearly all foreign banks terminated their business in China, leading to the financial slump of Shanghai.

Entering the 21st century, Shanghai is taking shape again. Many people like to visit the Bund to look at the European architectures and feel the past prosperity of this modern city.

"The historical assets are precious intangibles for Shanghai," said Li Enqiang, research fellow with the National Development and Reform Commission. "The first city foreign financial institutions think of when they are about to enter China is Shanghai, signaling the rich historical value of the city."

Long way to go

"The financial system in Shanghai is relatively mature, and Shanghai has become a magnet for financial institutions and professionals," said Fang, adding that Shanghai has the potential to become an international financial center.

Fang believes that with the listing of state-owned commercial banks and the deepened reform in the capital market, Shanghai is fast catching up with the international level.

Wu Xiaoqiu, professor with the Financial and Securities Institute of Renmin University of China, presented a list of favorable factors for Shanghai to become an international financial center. First is the fast development of the national economy and the country's ever-expanding economic scale. By the end of 2005, the economic scale of China ranked fourth in the world with an annual GDP growth hovering around 10 percent. This kind of high GDP growth will continue for a long period of time, providing solid economic conditions for Shanghai. Second, China's imports and exports are expanding rapidly, and the frequent international economic exchange will help to turn a domestic financial center into a global one.

"The most important factor is the stable Chinese financial environment," said Wu. Shanghai has always placed financial development as the priority in its strategic development. At present, domestic financial institution reform is drawing to a close. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Bank of China have all been successfully listed. Various financial institutions have been brought into the track of sound, sustained and steady development. Furthermore, China has entered an era of excessive liquidity, which enables it to provide services to the international capital market.

"Due to these reasons, I believe that Shanghai will become an international financial center in the near future," said Wu.

Shanghai, with over 18 million residents, is the most populous city on the Chinese mainland. Apart from favor from financial institutions, Shanghai has also won the trust of international industrial tycoons, such as General Motors, IBM and ALU. "It is obvious that Shanghai will become a major financial center in Asia and will likely surpass such status in the future," said Stanley.

It is also acknowledged that there is a long way to go before Shanghai becomes a real international financial hub.

Lu Hongjun, President of Shanghai Institute of International Finance, contends that Shanghai needs to improve in terms of financial innovation, financial risk prevention and financial personnel.

Lu stated that the financial sector's risk management should be further strengthened, as the transparency of the Chinese financial market is not high enough. In terms of financial innovation, although financial derivatives such as stock index futures and options and equity futures are allowed to be traded on the market soon, Shanghai is still lagging behind Hong Kong and Singapore, and even South Korea and India.

Lu suggested that Shanghai should work on its soft infrastructure construction, for instance, the credit system, derivative innovation centers, and transaction and accounting centers. Those indexes are much more important than tangible construction, but Shanghai is still very weak in this area.

Regarding financial personnel, Shanghai lacks senior financial personnel in such fields as company leadership, operational management and product innovation. Experts estimated that Shanghai needs 1 million specialized personnel to help upgrade it into an international financial center.

Financial Data of Shanghai in 2006

1. The total financial market transaction volume reached 60.95 trillion yuan ($7.81 trillion), up 76.26 percent year on year.

2. The total assets of banks grew 19.1 percent, with 14.4 percent growth in profits.

3. The number of foreign financial institutions exceeded 100.

4. The yuan and foreign currency assets of foreign banks reached 509.4 billion yuan ($65.3 billion), accounting for 14 percent of the total assets of financial institutions in Shanghai, up 4.9 percentage points compared with the rate by the end of 2002.

5. Altogether 31 foreign banks chose Shanghai as their primary reporting banks in China. The foreign banks' assets in Shanghai took up 56 percent of all foreign banks' assets in the Chinese mainland.

6. Twenty-four insurance companies from over 10 countries have entered the Shanghai market, and their insurance premium covered 19.17 percent of the Shanghai market.

7. There were 20 foreign securities institutions and 20 joint venture securities companies and fund management companies, as well as 58 foreign securities representative offices in Shanghai.

(Source: Shanghai Financial Stability Report 2007)

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