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Local Government Debt and Bank Credit Allocation in China


Time: 09:00 am-10:30 am, Nov. 11th, 2022

Platform: Zoom

Speaker: Zhiwei Xu

(HSBC Business School, Peking University)



Meeting ID: 816 2616 4288

Passcode: inse



China launched a three-year debt-to-bond swap program in early 2015 that required local governments to replace outstanding debts by local government bonds.  Since most of the swapped and newly issued local government bonds were held by commercial banks, the share of local government bonds in commercial bank assets surged from 2015 to 2018.  Under the Basel III capital regulations, local government bonds are considered relatively safe assets with low risk weights.  A simple theoretical model shows that an increase in the share of low-risk-weight assets should raise the share of bank lending to risky projects and reduce the credit spread.  Furthermore, the sensitivity of the credit spread to changes in risk weights should increase with the amount of outstanding government debts.  Guided by the theory, we study the empirical effects of the debt-swap program on banking lending and credit spreads, using confidential loan-level data from one of China's state commercial banks, combined with province-level government debt data and firm-level balance sheet data in China's manufacturing sector. Consistent with the theory's predictions, we obtain robust empirical evidence that the implementation of the debt-swap program has significantly reduced the credit spread for privately owned firms (POEs) relative to state-owned enterprises (SOEs), and the decline in the credit spread is significantly more pronounced in provinces with larger outstanding government debts.





Professor Zhiwei Xu is Associate Professor (with tenure) at HSBC Business School, Peking University. His main research interests include Macro Finance, Chinese Economy, and Business Cycles. His work has been published in the American Economic Journal: Macro, Economic Journal, Economic Theory, Journal of Development Economics,  Journal of Economic Theory, and other leading Chinese journals. Currently, he is the Associate Editor of China and World Economy, Economic Modelling and the Journal of Economics. He is the winner of the 2016 Pushan Award for Academic Research in International Economics. Professor Xu received his Ph.D. in Economics from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in 2013.