China's banking regulator fumbles Shang damage control
As boring and insubstantial government news releases go, the bland piece that China’s top banking regulator put on the top of its website on Monday probably ranks eight out of 10. But there is no mistaking the real key message veiled under a lot of bureaucratic gibberish: Shang Fulin is not under investigation!
The one-page press release said Shang Fulin, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, had attended an internal Communist Party meeting on Sunday. Shang made a keynote speech urging everyone in the CBRC system to study recent speeches by Party leader Xi Jinping.
Really? Hold the front page.
What’s really significant about the press release is the timing. It came after weekend rumours spread like wildfire that Shang had been put under investigation by the Party. I myself received at least five such messages from bankers and fund managers based in Beijing and Shanghai.
According to the rumour, which started circulating on Saturday, Shang, the mainland’s long-serving former top regulator of the securities industry before he moved on to the banking regulator job in late 2011, might have been detained in a corruption probe.
No one really knew where the rumour originated, and they came with not a single modicum of evidence; but suffice to say that everyone who is anyone in Greater China banking circles knew about it by Sunday evening. Hence the clumsy ‘news’ release.
The rumour came one day ahead of the opening of the nine-day session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and just three days out from the National People’s Congress, which opens on Tuesday.
CBRC’s PR managers looked naive sending out a sham of a press release whose only purpose was to mention Shang’s name and the date he appeared. But given that this is not the first time that Shang has been at the centre of such rumours, maybe this has become the commission’s standard defence tactic.
George Chen is the Post's financial services editor. Like the column? Visit facebook.com/mrshangkong