Debt Poses Significant Financial Risk — IMF China Report

Attendees wait to begin an International Monetary Fund Committee plenary session at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group Annual Meetings in Washington D.C. on Oct. 14

Such firms with weak fundamentals have become a key concern in China as they contribute to debt vulnerability and low productivity, and this issue is seen as one of the main reasons for the rise in corporate debts.

"They (IMF executive board directors) welcomed the significant steps taken by the People's Bank of China and regulatory agencies to strengthen financial sector supervision against a background of rapid financial sector growth and deepening", said the IMF in a statement after concluding the discussion of financial system stability assessment with China.

The report said reining in excessive growth would require China to reduce emphasis on high GDP projections in national plans, which have spurred local authorities to set high growth targets. The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) - also known as the central bank of central banks - for example, warned that the Chinese banking sector could be facing an imminent blowout, raising worries about its effect on the world economy.

Banks participated in the test were classified into five, namely the big-four banks, large banks, medium, city commercial banks and rural banks.

While praising China's president, Xi Jinping, for his commitment to improving financial security, the International Monetary Fund said reforms by Beijing in recent years had not gone far enough.

Stress test results revealed widespread under-capitalization of banks other than the Big Four banks under a severely adverse scenario.

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"Implicit guarantees to SOEs [state-owned enterprises] need to be removed carefully and gradually", she said. There had been a commitment to supporting growth and jobs, coupled with pressures to keep non-viable firms open.

The ballooning debt - estimated at 234 per cent of gross domestic product by the International Monetary Fund - adds financial risk and may weigh on China's future economic growth. Supervision of banks had been tightened up but demand for high-yield investment products had led to attempts to escape regulations though increasingly complex investment vehicles.

Meanwhile, the global financial institution warned that China's rapid credit growth, complex financial products and government's implicit guarantee posed threats to financial stability.

The IMF said the impact of the shocks is highly uneven across banks.

But it said it did not go along with all of the findings and that the stress tests "do not fully reflect the whole picture".


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