Xi Jinping instructed China’s state-owned enterprises to lower their debt levels. “Deleveraging at SOEs is of the utmost importance,” the Chinese president said at this weekend’s National Financial Work Conference, which convenes only once every five years. He added that the country’s financial officials must also “get a grip” on so-called “zombie” enterprises kept alive by infusions of cheap credit. According to the Financial Times, vigilance against mounting financial risks has become the top policy priority for Xi, who wants to ensure economic and social stability in the run-up to a Communist party congress that will mark the beginning of his second five-year term. Xi’s warning about state-sector debt follows increased regulatory scrutiny of leverage last month at four of China’s largest private-sector companies, which have led a surge in Chinese overseas M&A activity over recent years. According to the Bank for International Settlements, China’s overall debt level is at about 260% of gross domestic product and climbing.
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