China now a bigger player on financial stage

China’s rapid ascent to become the world's second largest economy provided confirmation – if any was needed – that the country is a key player on the global financial stage.

And with China forecast to grow at around 10 per cent this year – down from recent pre-crisis highs but still far in advance of most rivals – it is clear that we are witnessing a shift in the balance of economic power towards the East.

Just as London today is seen as the natural point of entry for international firms looking to access the European market, Chinese centres are working hard to become financial gateways to Asia and beyond.

Hong Kong is already established among the top three in the world alongside London and New York, while the municipal government is taking steps towards realising its vision of Shanghai becoming an international financial centre and shipping hub by 2020.

The scale of China’s ambitions and accomplishments are starkly evident as I write this in Shenzhen, which is marking the 30th anniversary of its founding as the country’s first Special Economic Zone.

In that time, Shenzhen has been transformed from a small fishing village in the Pearl River Delta to China’s fourth richest city.

Bold reforms have helped attract the foreign investment needed to accelerate Shenzhen’s economic development, which in turn has spawned innovative and international Shenzhen-based firms such as China Merchants Bank – one of several Chinese banks to set up in the UK recently.

Of course, people often focus on Hong Kong’s booming growth and Shanghai’s grand plans. But there is no reason why China cannot sustain all three centres. Shenzhen is focusing primarily on SME listings, Shanghai on larger IPOs, and Hong Kong has long served as an international foothold into Asia.

The domestic marketplace is certaintly large enough to cater for all three, with cross-border transactions – an area many City firms have considerable experience in – helping to drive growth forward.

The UK has a mutually beneficial trade relationship with China – worth some £7.8bn in 2009 – and there is scope for further collaboration in areas as diverse as rural banking, M&A and green finance. Our exchange of expertise and ideas benefits both countries.

More needs to be done, however, if China is to translate its unquestionable economic strength into an even more thriving financial industry.

There is tremendous goodwill towards the City thanks to our historic ties, and we stand ready to help China meet burgeoning demand through close partnership.

For more information on the City’s efforts in China visit: www.twitter.com/citylordmayor.
Nick Anstee is Lord Mayor of the City of London