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China’s new banking watchdog chief coy on super-regulator role ‘rumour’

Guo Shuqing, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, attends a press conference at the State Council Information Office on March 2, 2017 in Beijing, China.
VCG | Getty Images
Guo Shuqing, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, attends a press conference at the State Council Information Office on March 2, 2017 in Beijing, China.

The Chinese banking regulator's newly ­appointed chief on Thursday brushed aside suggestions that he would spearhead a merger of the country's three financial ­industry watchdogs, describing the talk as "rumour".

In his first public appearance since taking on the top job at the China Banking Regulatory Commission last week, Guo Shuqing vowed to strengthen oversight of the sector, but stopped short of saying what his role would be in overhauling financial regulation.

"If you'd asked me about the ways to improve rural toilets, I would say I knew three ways; but you've asked me about my plans for banking regulation, and at present, I have none," he said.

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Guo, who was named CBRC chairman after four years as ­governor of Shandong, tried to tamp down speculation that he would lead the nation's effort to merge the regulators for banking, securities and insurance.

When asked if he had any idea abouts a suitable financial regulatory model, Guo said: "I have been in my [new] office for just three days, and I really have had no time to think about the problem thoroughly.

"I have been working on the real economy for the last four years, and I haven't thought about financial regulation too much – I need to learn from you as well."

The light-hearted comments belie the severity of Guo's task – he has pledged to bring the banking industry into line to serve the economy and to crack down on ­irregularities among lenders.

Guo's return to the capital comes as the leadership is urging regulators to root out sources of financial risk.

Liu Shiyu, chairman of the China Securities Regulatory ­Commission, said last week that his ­institution would tackle "big crocodiles" – the tycoons pulling the strings behind the scenes in the capital market. The insurance regulator has also barred a high-profile tycoon from the insurance business for a decade.

Guo said the CBRC would urge banks to channel funds to support supply-side reform, the hallmark of President Xi Jinping's economic policy. He also aimed to close regulatory loopholes to stop profiteering.

"We will put priority on financial risk control to make sure there won't be any systemic financial risks," Guo said. "Some financial products ... are invested in each other with no one really knowing the underlying assets or the final destination of fund flows."

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