Sunday, March 8, 2009


Company History:

Bank of China (BOC) is that country's oldest bank, and also one of its four largest banks, with assets of more than $433 billion--which also places it in the top 20 banks worldwide. BOC's function as the country's foreign exchange specialist for more than 40 years has made it the country's most international bank, with 580 branches and subsidiaries in 26 countries. At home, Bank of China is backed up by a network of more than 12,000 branch offices. Altogether, the bank employs nearly 193,000 people. Although BOC remains under Chinese government control, its subsidiary Bank of China (Hong Kong) Limited is the first Chinese-held bank to list on a foreign stock exchange. BOC offers a full range of traditional banking services, including commercial, private, and investment banking, foreign currency deposit and exchange services, as well as assets management and insurance services. BOC also holds note-issuing privileges in Hong Kong and Macau. Since the start of the 2000s, BOC has been undergoing a steady restructuring of its operations in order to shrug off the poor reputation of the Chinese banking industry in general as it prepares its own initial public offering (IPO). The bank's listing is slated for 2005 if it meets its restructuring targets--and the arrival of foreign banking competition after China's entry into the World Trade Organization.

Domestic Bank in the 1910s

Although China was the first civilization to introduce paper currency--in the 12th century--the country remained without a modern banking system until after the First Opium War in 1842. With China brought under colonial influence, the country opened up to foreign banks. In part by providing loans to the ruling Qing dynasty, the foreign banks quickly dominated China's economy.

Growing nationalist sentiment against the Qing government at the end of the century led to the first attempts to establish Chinese banks, beginning with the formation of the Imperial Bank of China in Shanghai in 1897. The Qing government responded by authorizing the creation of a new Chinese-owned bank in Beijing. The Bank of the Board of Revenue, as it was called, was created in 1905 and was jointly held by private citizens and the government. In 1908, the bank changed its name, to Da Qing Bank. At that time, the Qing government authorized the bank to issue money and oversee the treasury. Da Qing also coordinated the government's debts.

The Qing dynasty was overthrown during the republican revolution of 1911. The new provisional government, led by Sun Yatsen, authorized Da Qing Bank to change its name, to Bank of China. Now the Sun government's central bank, BOC became headquartered in Shanghai. In the meantime, the overthrow of the Qing dynasty and the Chinese monarchy led to the emergence of a large number of new domestic banks. These remained rather small, dwarfed by the more established foreign competitors.

BOC remained a central component of the Sun government through the troubled decades ahead. In 1928, BOC took on a new facet as the government's international exchange bank. This position was solidified with the opening of a branch office in London in 1929, marking the first time a Chinese bank had opened an office outside of China. BOC quickly extended its foreign network, and by the end of the 1940s had opened 34 branches outside of China, including a number of branches in Britain-dominated Hong Kong.

The arrival to power of the Communist government under Mao marked a new era for BOC as well. Foreign banks were forced to exit the country. At the same time, the domestic banking sector was brought entirely under government control and reformed into four primary bodies. BOC, which remained one of the country's four prominent banking operations, was then specialized as the government's foreign exchange bank, responsible for foreign trade and international banking operations.

BOC remained China's most public banking face as the country plunged into some three decades of political and economic isolation from the rest of the world. At the end of the 1970s, however, the Chinese government became determined to end its attempt at self-sufficiency, and instead initiated a thaw in its international relations--and a gradual relaxation of its economic policies.

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