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China’s Banking System Risks after the 2008-10 Stimulus Package and the Housing Boom

Alicia García-Herrero Senior Research Fellow, Bruegel ; chef économiste pour la région sie-Pacifique, Natixis. Contact :
Daniel Santabárbara Banque d’Espagne ; Banque centrale européenne.

China’s banking system has performed extremely well during the last few years both compared with its peers in the West but also with its own situation only a few years ago. The improvement in terms of size and profitability comes as a consequence of government restructuring of the banking system based on governmental capitalization and clean-up of bad loans. In addition, the massive fiscal package introduced by China during the global crisis has allowed banks to grow by increasing their lending massively. Such lending has concentrated on local governments’ financing vehicles, whose revenues are very dependent on the prices of land and housing in general. Given China’s overheating and too fast increase in housing prices, the authorities are taking strict measures to reduce the supply of credit (especially to local governments) and also housing and land prices. Both measures may put the future solvency of local government financing companies at risk, with the negative consequences which this may have on the Chinese banking system.

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