China's leading banks are applying to set up branches in the US as they look to expand their networks to cater for growing Chinese business interests in the country. In April, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China made its application to US regulators to open a branch in New York. Shenzhen-based China Merchants Bank filed a similar application a month earlier, which, if approved, could see the bank start to offer services as early as the second half of the year. Of China's biggest banks, only Bank of China and Bank of Communications currently have US branches, the Wall Street Journal reported. The assets of these US-based operations have tripled since 1997, driven largely by strong demand for banking services among the US subsidiaries of Chinese companies. The move also suggests these banks want to a play a larger role in global financial markets, with acquisitions of foreign companies a possibility.