China has long attracted Western investors with its promise of newfound riches and a recently liberalized economy seeking foreign know-how and investment. Yet anyone who has done business in the country knows that, despite WTO membership, Chinese authorities have grappled with the levels of transparency and disclosure that investors in most developed markets take for granted.
Robert Lawrence Kuhn, an investment banker, corporate strategist, adviser to the Chinese government and author of a best-selling biography of Chinas former president, Jiang Zemin, is hoping to ride to the rescue with a new book that shines a spotlight on the Chinese banking and financial industries.
Financial data was suspect, says Kuhn, adding that disparities in financial and economic data were often the result of fierce competition between Chinese cities and provinces wanting to put a positive spin on things. In the mid-1990s, he says, Jiang Zemin asked every province to give him their growth rate and inflation rate. They wanted to manipulate things so it looked good.
Emboldened by the success of the biography, and by the Chinese authorities recent efforts to be more transparent to foreign investors and corporations, Kuhn embarked on his current project, the end result of which is Chinas Banking and Financial Markets: The Internal Research Report of the Chinese Government.
It is the first book published in English to detail internally published research pertaining to the contemporary development of Chinas banking and financial markets, including information on the macro economy, financial institutions, the banking and insurance sectors, the stock exchange and futures market, balance of payments and exchange rate reform. The book is co-edited by Li Yang, director general of Chinas Institute of Finance and Banking.
Kuhn points out that it is not an official policy report, but the fact that it even was allowed to be published shows that [China is] really making progress. According to Kuhn, the book is consistent with Chinese president Hu Jintaos policy of openness, which may not be democracy or free media [in the Western sense], but it is about finding different ways of creating checks and balances, he explains.