How China's coming leadership transition will affect the financial industry

Written by Zennon Kapron || October 2012

So we’ve just come out of the October holiday here in China and are headed in the final frantic few months before Chinese New Year. The difference this year is the early November once in a decade leadership transition where nearly every Chinese leader and politician will be replaced and/or shifted around in China’s Communist Party. It was never in doubt that the transition would happen towards the end of this year, but it was only in the last few weeks that it became clear it would happen in early November.

This is an important transition for the government and only the second peaceful transition of power in recent China’s recent history. The transition is even more important because of the critical social and economic challenges that the country is facing right now. A slow/stagnant world economy and increased but still limited domestic consumption is limiting China’s economy as a whole which is exacerbating the internal challenges it is facing – one of the most critical being the increasing delta between the haves and have nots. If you have been reading international media recently, we’re starting to see more and more of this discrepancy being uncovered and it does nothing to help the government in the eyes of the people.

More specifically to the financial industry however, the transition means increased change. We’ve seen this already this year especially in the capital markets as the new chief regulators have done quite a bit to open the capital markets this year with increased rumours that regulation on the RFQLP programme should be announced shortly, adding yet another channel for off-shore RMB to come back into China’s mainland markets.

The shift in policy is also indicative of China’s increased awareness of money leaving China. With reports of both wealthy individuals and corporations legally and illegally sending money abroad, the issue which used to be too much hot money coming in, is now too much hot money going out. To a certain extent, this is a bit of a blessing in disguise for China as it will allow regulators to further open the market without risking the hot money inflows – which was viewed as a challenge in the past.

With the party congress set for November of this year, we’re unlikely to see too much more change until after Chinese New Year (Feb 2013). What we should be able to quickly determine though is how open the new leaders are to change and modernization of all industries, not just the financial services industry. As we’ve discussed on our blog before, this will largely depend on how quickly the new leaders can consolidate their power to be able to effect change and in which direction they decide to go.

Regardless, 2013 will be a new watershed for China’s financial services industry. Stay tuned early next year for our 2013 top financial technology trends report to see how we see things changing.

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