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Viewpoint - China's evolution is a trend to watch in 2021

Increased international participation is good for all derivatives market participants

5 January 2021

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In 2020, cleared derivatives markets around the world dealt with many challenges as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But after closing the books on a historic year, it's important to point out that our industry continued to grow and thrive even in the face of these challenges.

And there's perhaps no better illustration of that growth and resilience than the continued evolution of China's financial markets. As someone who has been visiting and following the China futures markets for nearly twenty years, this year feels like a tipping point in their development. 

On December 22, China began allowing foreign access to the palm oil futures contracts traded on the Dalian Commodity Exchange. This is the seventh onshore product that the Chinese authorities have opened to the global derivatives community, adding to crude oil, copper, and iron ore futures. It is very exciting to see China's futures exchanges, which represent the 10th, 11th and 12th largest exchanges in the world by volume, welcoming more international participation. To me, these developments fundamentally represent China's recognition of the importance of open and competitive markets to discover prices and manage risk.

Open and competitive markets are at the core of FIA’s mission. Why? Because competition and access sharpen the game of all market participants and give customers choices. This allows capital to flow to where it is needed most, helping all boats in the global economy to rise. The fact that officials in Beijing continued to prioritize connectivity with the rest of the world, in a year when there was skepticism around multinationalism and historic volume and volatility in our markets, makes these events even more noteworthy. 

As we enter 2021, China seems prepared to build on these successes. I am a member of the International Advisory Council of the China Securities Regulatory Commission and I had the distinct pleasure of hosting Vice Chairman Fang Xinghai of the CSRC as part of our FIA Asia-V conference on 1 December.  

Vice Chair Fang, who studied economics at Stanford and began his career at the World Bank, told me the CSRC is committed to creating deep and liquid futures markets through international participation. This path is obviously good for China's financial markets, but it's also good for the global economy by supporting better price discovery and risk management around the globe.

We could see an increase in international participation in China thanks to recent changes to programs governing access to the country’s onshore capital markets. On 1 November, reforms to QFII and RQFII expanded the list of approved products available for trading and will speed up and simplify how international investors can apply for a license to participate in Chinese markets. 

To be sure, there's still a lot of work to be done and factors at play in connecting China to the rest of the world. But it's important for our industry to acknowledge how much progress China’s derivatives markets have made in the last 12 months in the face of significant political and public health headwinds.  This integration of China with the global economy will bring needed competition, innovation and growth to our markets. Our industry should welcome this development.   

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