Can New Chinese Regulator Stabilize Markets?

Newsmakers | China
Liu Shiyu, who became the new head in mid-February, has an impressive pedigree. But the challenges he faces will require nothing short of mastery.

Liu Shiyu’s first job is to calm stock markets

Amid fierce market tremors, whose ripples were felt around the world in recent months, China sacked the head of its securities watchdog, the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC).

“Liu Shiyu has a long career as one of China’s top banking regulators,” says Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific chief economist for IHS Global Insight. “This gives him strong policy experience to take on the role of chairman of the CSRC.” Liu has worked at the People’s Bank of China, China’s central bank, since the mid-1990s, and has been a deputy governor since 2006. More recently, he was chairman of the Agricultural Bank of China, one of the country’s largest state-owned banks.

Liu’s first order of business is to contain volatility. “A key task for him will be to stabilize the stock market,” says Biswas, “and to communicate well with financial markets to implement necessary stock-market reform measures.”

Strategically, this means developing deeper capital markets to make it easier for small and midsize companies to raise funds beyond hard-to-get bank loans. Liu’s other priority is to overhaul the rules regulating IPOs.

“China’s State Council has already set out a timetable for switching from an approval-based IPO system to a registration-based IPO system,” Biswas says. “This is expected to improve the Chinese IPO process.” Liu will likely encounter some resistance from larger, more established and politically well-connected companies that have an interest in preserving the status quo. In his first briefing as chairman, Liu acknowledged that IPO reform would be a long process.

He also said he stands ready to provide the market with more state support, via the rescue fund of the China Securities Finance Corporation, to avoid a repeat of last year’s crash.