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China to step up support for troubled banks, small businesses in 2020

The People's Bank of China said it would strengthen regulations for financial institutions and step up support for troubled banks and small businesses in 2020 in an effort to "win the battle" against financial risks, according to minutes of the central bank's annual meeting on Jan. 5.

The regulator said it would establish a long-term supervision mechanism for its ongoing crackdown on risks stemming from the financial and property sectors, and deepen structural reform for small- and medium-sized banks to improve their governance.

Investors have voiced concerns over rising financial risks facing domestic banks since the government-led seizure of city commercial bank Baoshang Bank Co. Ltd. in May 2019. The seizure was followed by state-backed bailouts of Bank of Jinzhou Co. Ltd., HENGFENG BANK CO. Ltd. and Harbin Bank Co. Ltd. in July, August and November, respectively. Another bank, Yingkou Costal Bank Co. Ltd., also reportedly struggled to meet withdrawal demands in November.

The central bank said it plans to improve its incentive mechanism to boost lending to small and micro businesses and continue with policy measures such as targeted reserve requirement cuts, re-lending and re-discounting. The regulator cut the reserve requirement ratio for banks by 50 basis points on Jan. 6 after multiple cuts in 2019.