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No US-style subprime crisis for China: Former CIC Chair

Thursday, 26 Sep 2013 | 1:10 AM ET
Tomohiro Ohsumi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

While parallels have been drawn between China's inflated housing market and the U.S. housing bubble that triggered the 2007-2008 global financial crisis, the world's second-largest economy is unlikely to face similar subprime problems, according to former chairman of the board of supervisors of China Investment Corp (CIC) – the country's sovereign wealth fund.

"You can't generalize about a housing bubble in China. In tier-one cities there's strong demand, in second and third-tier cities there may be some bubbles. But as long as we handle it carefully, it's not the same as the U.S.," Liqun Jin said at the The SkyBridge Alternatives (SALT) Conference in Singapore on Thursday.

(Read more: China's economic growth more like 4%: Marc Faber)

"The down payment for home buyers is pretty high, you can't have mortgage financing without a steady income. In the U.S. you could have zero [interest mortgages]; you expected the appreciation of property to pay for the mortgage. The [Chinese] banks will not have a problem in dealing with this," he added.

Jin, who is currently chairman of the China International Capital Corporation – one of the country's largest investment banks – however, acknowledged there were some risks present in the country's financial sector stemming from the colossal stimulus package the government introduced to bolster the economy at the height of the global financial crisis.

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In 2008, the government unveiled a 4 trillion yuan stimulus program that funded a wave of infrastructure projects across the country, some of which are not generating returns. This is reflected in China's "roads to nowhere," or bridges built under the premise of boosting infrastructure but which are barely used.

"This round of stimulus probably would have created [non-performing loans] on balance sheets. I think both the government and people in the financial sector should be aware of potential risks," he said.

(Read more: China's property sector: Does it face more curbs?)

Nevertheless, he doesn't expect a "tough situation" for the sector, noting that banks are in a healthy position and have become more prudent in managing their businesses.

"It's not the same thing you saw 10 years ago when banks would have made loans to state-owned enterprises regardless of their performance; things have changed. (Also the) capital adequacy of major banks is sufficient, and loan loss provisions are very high," he said.

Growth momentum to sustain

Discussing his outlook for the economy, Jin said he expects Chinese authorities will be determined to keep gross domestic product growth above 7 percent over the next one to two decades, sustained by the government's reform momentum.

Stability in the global economic environment will allow the government to push ahead with its reform agenda at a faster pace, he said, citing the Shanghai free-trade zone as an example of Beijing's determination.

(Read more: China home prices rise for eighth straight month)

The imminent establishment of a free trade zone covering 29 square kilometers of eastern Shanghai is regarded as an important step forward in China's economic liberalization. Successful initiatives will ultimately be rolled out nationwide, but likely after several years, say analysts.

Further reform initiatives are expected be outlined at The Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee set to be held in November.

"Looking at the statements by the leaders, I would say it would be focused on reforms in the financial sector (including) equity market, bond and banking sector reform," Jin said.

—By CNBC's Ansuya Harjani; Follow her onTwitter @Ansuya_H

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