The Chinese yuan, also known as the renminbi, is already convertible under the current account - the broadest measure of trade in goods and services. However, the capital account, which covers portfolio investment and borrowing, is still closely managed by Beijing because of worries about abrupt capital flows.
Cadres pilfer funds meant for poor
Local officials misused or embezzled one-fifth of the money allocated under the mainland's poverty-alleviation fund, according to the State Auditing Administration.
The body discovered widespread abuse of the fund, which receives a yearly allocation from the central Government to assist the poorest parts of the country, the China Business Times reported.
Investigators found that between 1997 and the first half of 1999, 20.43 per cent of the fund was 'diverted, embezzled or misappropriated for unauthorised purposes and non-designated areas'. During that period, 48.8 billion yuan (HK$46 billion) was allocated across 592 counties.
Instead of helping poverty-stricken families, officials spent the money on business, entertainment and cars. The investigators' report described the management of the fund as 'shockingly chaotic'.
Local officials saw it as a way to increase their income and bribery was widely used in obtaining the money.
In Liaoning province, seven out of the nine counties that received subsidies diverted a total of 12.49 million yuan. In Sichuan province, a hotel spent 6.05 million yuan of the poverty fund. Guangdong is said to have siphoned 2.8 million yuan for what the report called 'entertainment and personal subsidies', including the purchase of three cars.
A county poverty-alleviation officer in Guangdong even deposited 420,000 yuan into his own band account, the newspaper said.
In one of China's poorest provinces, Ningxia, farmers were asked to sign statements that they had received 400 yuan as a subsidy for a well, even though they never saw the money.
The abuse of the fund has become one of the main sources of tension between local cadres and farmers. The farmers know that money designated for them from the central Government has been stolen.