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Financial crocodiles and poisonous demons: Chinese regulators' war of words

"Big crocodiles" and "demons" might not be terms typically associated with regulatory legalese, but those phrases have begun to creep into the lexicon of China's top financial regulators.

As Asia's largest economy continues a push to reform its financial system and encourage greater stability ahead of the National People's Congress in March, financial watchdogs have turned to flowery language. It's a bid to rein in capital market volatility — or else.

'Rich men's club'

In a news briefing conducted in Beijing, the chairman of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) said that insurers who engaged in speculation would face severe punishments.

Those who did so could potentially have their licenses revoked or be "kicked out" of the industry, said Xiang Junbo, the chairman of the CIRC. He went on to say that the insurance sector could not become a "rich men's club" and reminded insurers that they had a responsibility to maintain welfare in society.

The CIRC is the top insurance regulator in China, determining which providers are issued licenses to sell insurance.

The comments come after a buying spree for Chinese insurers in recent years, with notable examples being the insurance unit of Baoneng Group and Anbang Insurance. The former's attempted takeover involving property developer Vanke was in the headlines for most of last year.

'Barbarians' and 'thieves'

In another criticism of the insurance sector, China's insurance watchdog referred to local insurers as "barbarians" for their hostile takeover attempts.

The CIRC was referring to attempts made by Foresea Life, the insurance arm of Baoneng Group, to use capital from its insurance products to launch a takeover on Vanke. Foresea Life was later suspended from selling universal life insurance by the CIRC, the Nikkei Asian Review reported.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission Chairman, Liu Shiyu, had his own variation of the term. He said that these insurers had transformed from "strangers at the gate to barbarians, and finally to industry thieves," Nikkei stated.

Vanke Chairman Wang Shi used the term in 2015 when he called the Baoneng Group's actions barbaric for attempting to overthrow Vanke board members, the South China Morning Post stated.

'Financial crocodiles'

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Jay Directo | AFP | Getty Images

The authorities will bring to justice "big crocodiles" — referring to Chinese tycoons — who are allegedly unfairly profiteering from the stock market, the chairman of the CSRC said earlier this month.

Liu went on to invoke more colorful language during the rest of his speech. He promised that "financial crocodiles" would no longer be allowed to "suck the blood of the retail investors," Chinese financial publication Caixin reported.

The comments were regarded by China watchers to be in reference to the disappearance of billionaire Xiao Jianhua over the Lunar New Year. Authorities in China have not commented directly on the matter but sources have said that the tycoon is "assisting" financial investigations on the mainland, the South China Morning Post stated.

Other variations of the phrase used by regulators include "capital market crocodiles," "giant crocodiles" and "big croc tycoons."

'Poisonous demons'

The CSRC's Liu also relied on evocative turns of phrases while criticizing the actions of some companies in a leaked video from December last year, the South China Morning Post reported.

The securities regulator spoke out against private companies using insurance funds to buy out other companies, calling the takeovers "improper."

Among the other the other choice name Liu used were "barbarians," "evil monsters" and "poisonous demons," according to a leaked video of the speech made on Dec. 3, 2016.

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