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Banking Reform in the Chinese Mirror

34 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009  

Katharina Pistor

Columbia University School of Law

Date Written: August 10, 2009


This paper analyzes the transactions that led to the partial privatization of China’s three largest banks in 2005-06. It suggests that these transactions were structured to allow for inter-organizational learning under conditions of uncertainty. For the involved foreign investors, participation in large financial intermediaries of central importance to the Chinese economy gave them the opportunity to learn about financial governance in China. For the Chinese banks partnering with more than one foreign investor, their participation allowed them to benefit from the input by different players in the global financial market place and to learn from the range of technical and governance expertise offered. This model of bank reform contrasts with the privatization strategies pursued in Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe throughout the 1990s. These different experiences stand for alternative strategies of bank reform - one that relies on top down changes of the rules of the game; another that focuses on inter-organizational learning via observation. It suggests that the latter model may be superior under conditions of uncertainty. The paper discusses the costs and benefits of these alternative models in the context of the global financial crisis.

Keywords: banking reform, financial crisis, sovereign wealth funds, China, emerging markets

JEL Classification: F36, G2, H8, K2, L22

Suggested Citation

Pistor, Katharina, Banking Reform in the Chinese Mirror (August 10, 2009). Columbia Law and Economics Working Paper No. 354. Available at SSRN: or

Katharina Pistor (Contact Author)

Columbia University School of Law ( email )

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New York, NY 10025
United States
212-854-0068 (Phone)
212-854-7946 (Fax)

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