China's strategies to promote economic development through its massive State owned enterprises (SOEs) and state backed banks are both complicated and somewhat opaque. On the one hand, SOEs are state-run enterprises that are partly owned by the government and partially by the private sector. They are designed to foster rapid economic development by laying off inefficient or unwanted businesses and bringing in new, cheaper entrants while attempting to keep industries operating at near full capacity. At the same time, the government heavily regulates them to protect its own control over the economy and prevent the sort of chaos that often characterizes inefficient or over regulation free economies.
The State bank system was established in response to the chaos that resulted from the previous system, the Bretton Woods system. By providing a more stable market for international investment, it hoped to stabilize currencies and reduce the risk of expropriation and inflation. They were also interested in increasing the rate of return on their holdings of foreign currency, as well as helping to protect the value of the renminbi and other currencies against depreciation through appropriate interest rates and other policies. All of these objectives have been consistent policy objectives of the State for decades.
But, in recent years, some of these goals have started to overlap. State owned banks are now involved in almost every aspect of China's economy from agriculture to technology and finance. They are aggressively pursuing their globalization ambitions through mergers and acquisitions and state funded commercialization initiatives. Meanwhile, they continue to invest heavily in state owned businesses to promote growth and maintain overall stability.
SOE's have also become directly involved in the management of key economic and social indicators like industrial production, public infrastructure, and consumer spending. They continue to use their considerable purchasing power to try and stabilize markets and control inflation, while encouraging domestic growth and innovation. In many ways they function as public planners and economists of sorts. They are trying to establish a more inclusive economic system with a focus on long term growth that is capable of countering the pressures of globalization. But how are they doing this?
China's State Owned Banks have long been involved in international business. In fact, they are among the largest and most important players in the global economy. In the past, they maintained a strong influence on the international banking system, but following the onset of the internet they have been at a severe disadvantage. The internet has made it possible for offshore companies and individuals to take their money out of the country, often at a very high cost of loss. China's State Owned Banks has tried to change this, but the problem has simply not gone away. It is a fact that there is a high degree of corruption within the system.
China's State Owned Banks has adopted . . . . . . a more traditional approach to business. They have attempted to develop more local banks by creating new offices and promoting business activities within them. This approach has met with some success, especially in the area of commercial lending and credit facilities. However, it is not likely that this will produce a significant change in the way that the Chinese Government approaches its economy, or in the way that it tries to promote economic development in the area.
The growth of the Chinese State Owned Bank's presence throughout the world comes at the expense of domestic consumers. Because of this, the Chinese government has often attempted to use the promotion of economic growth as a way to manipulate the actions of its citizens. There is little doubt that the current methods, whether they are used to manipulate the currency markets or to purchase US Treasury debt, will continue to be used even after the current administration leaves the White House.
While there is certainly room for improvement in China's ability to promote economic development in the areas in which it operates, they are behind the times in many regards. It is unlikely that they will introduce any new policies in these areas, such as liberalization of the banking system or liberalization of the process of obtaining credit. They will continue to work with the current set of rules which have helped them become the largest economic power in the world. However, if the goals of these economic development programs are to produce sustainable economic development and to increase overall prosperity for the Chinese people, these goals will remain unmet.