Probably the greatest change seen in the world of banking and finance in the 21st century has been the emergence of Chinese banking as one of the major forces in all aspects of global economies.


Before 1978, China had a mono-bank model, in which all banks were part of one administrative government-owned hierarchy. Slowly governmental loans were replaced by bank loans, which were more profit oriented. The Government-owned People’s Bank of China was broken up into four specialized state-owned banks, also known as the “Big Four”.

These banks were the Bank of China (BOC), the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the China Construction Bank and the Agricultural Bank of China (ABC). These four banks now occupy the first four ranks in the table of world banks rated by total assets.

Altogether, Chinese banks make up 19% of the total number of banks in the top one hundred rated by total assets, and the country ranks #2, just after the USA, in terms of the total market capitalization of the listed banks. Between them, the US and Chinese banks account for 25 of the top 70 listed banks, with USA having 13 and China having12. Together the two countries account for 54% of the world’s total market in banking share values.

List of Largest Chinese Banks in the world. add table

The biggest bank in China ranked by assets is Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which is also the largest bank in the world in assets. However, when banks are rated by revenue, the biggest bank in China is Agricultural Bank of China, which ranks #2 in the world, after Bank of America.

Moving out of the previous centrally controlled banking mode, China now has 3 tiers of domestic banks. The first tier consists of the “Big Four” state-owned banks. The second tier consists of national-level domestic joint-equity banks and the third tier consists of approximately 100 city-level commercial banks. Besides the policy banks, Chinese-foreign joint-equity banks, banks fully capitalized by foreign funds are active on the Chinese market.

The reformation of the banking sector and the opening to the world economy steered China into enormous economic growth. The agricultural sector learned from foreign countries and became more efficient, foreign trade exploded, and foreign technologies were implemented rapidly with the support of foreign investments. From 1976 to 2020 China’s total GDP increased from $793.568 billion to $14.34 trillion. The GDP per capita grew from $853 to $8130 in 2020. China developed far faster than worldwide GDP.

Commercial banks in China only started to develop when the central governments changed the policy of tight control at the beginning of the 1990s. After 30 years without commercial banking China started to use foreign expertise (China imported textbooks, established business schools and trained their staff by foreign experts) to build the commercial banking sector in China.


Commercial banks in China

There are many commercial banks in China, which are financial institutions that provide a wide range of banking and financial services to individuals, small businesses, and corporate customers. Some of the largest and most well-known commercial banks in China include:

  1. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC): The largest bank in China by assets, and one of the largest banks in the world.
  2. China Construction Bank: The second-largest bank in China by assets.
  3. Agricultural Bank of China: The third-largest bank in China by assets.
  4. Bank of China: The fourth-largest bank in China by assets, and one of the oldest banks in the country.
  5. China Development Bank: A state-owned development finance institution that provides financial services to support economic and social development in China.
  6. China CITIC Bank: A large commercial bank in China, with a strong focus on retail banking.
  7. China Minsheng Banking Corporation: A mid-sized commercial bank in China, with a focus on serving small and medium-sized enterprises.
  8. China Guangfa Bank: A large commercial bank in China, with a strong presence in the retail banking sector.
  9. Ping An Bank: A large commercial bank in China that is known for its strong digital banking capabilities.
  10. China Pacific Insurance: A financial services company in China that offers a range of insurance products as well as banking and investment services.


Banking in China
The banking sector in China is a vital part of the country’s economy, with many banks operating in the country. Chinese banks offer a wide range of financial products and services to individuals, small businesses, and corporate customers, including checking and savings accounts, loans, mortgages, credit cards, and investment products.


The banking sector in China is regulated by the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC), which is responsible for maintaining financial stability, supervising and regulating banks and other financial institutions, and implementing monetary and credit policies.


There are many challenges facing the banking sector in China, including a slowing economy, rising levels of debt, and increasing competition from non-bank financial institutions. However, the sector is also seeing opportunities for growth and innovation, particularly in areas such as digital banking and financial inclusion.


The banking sector in China is an important part of the country’s financial system and plays a significant role in the country’s economic development. As of 2021, the banking sector in China is made up of four major types of banks: commercial banks, policy banks, development banks, and foreign banks.

Commercial banks in China include state-owned banks, joint-stock commercial banks, city commercial banks, and rural commercial banks. These banks provide a range of financial services, including deposit-taking, lending, foreign exchange, and other financial services to businesses and individuals.

Policy banks in China are state-owned development finance institutions that provide financing for infrastructure and development projects. These banks include the China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China.

Development banks in China are financial institutions that provide financing for infrastructure and development projects. These banks include the Agricultural Development Bank of China and the China Exim Bank.

Foreign banks in China are banks that are headquartered outside of China but operate branches or subsidiaries within the country. These banks provide a range of financial services to businesses and individuals in China.

Overall, the banking sector in China plays an important role in supporting economic growth and development in the country.

China’s banking sector, which includes commercial banks, investment banks, insurance firms, and other financial institutions, is referred to as banking in China. The Bank of China, the China Construction Bank, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and the Agricultural Bank of China are the four state-owned commercial banks that dominate the country’s banking sector. According to total assets, these four banks are among the biggest in the world.

China also has a number of smaller commercial banks, as well as foreign banks that conduct business there, in addition to these state-owned institutions. The People’s Bank of China, China’s central bank, which is in charge of establishing monetary policy, oversees the country’s banking industry.
while also overseeing the banking system.

The Chinese government has put in place a number of initiatives to modernize and enhance the sector, and the country’s banking industry has seen significant development and reform in recent decades.

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