The People’s Bank of China (officially PBC or informally PBOC; Chinese: 中国人民银行) is the central bank of the People’s Republic of China, responsible for carrying out monetary policy and regulation of financial institutions in China, as determined by the People’s Bank Law and the Commercial Bank Law. It is the 25th-ranked cabinet-level executive department of the State Council.
The PBC was established in 1948 with the merger of the Huabei Bank, the Beihai Bank and Northwestern Farmers’ Bank. After the proclamation of the PRC in 1949, it became the nation’s central bank. In 1969, the PBC was demoted to a bureau of the Ministry of Finance, an arrangement that lasted until August 1979. The PBC was extensively reformed during the 1990s, when its provincial and local branches were abolished, instead opening nine regional branches. These reforms were reversed in 2023, when the regional branches were abolished and the provincial branches restored.
Though operating with some autonomy, the PBC lacks central bank independence, and is required to implement the policies of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The PBC is led by a governor, assisted by deputy governors, and the CCP Committee Secretary; both posts are currently held by Pan Gongsheng.
The bank was established on December 1, 1948, based on the consolidation of the Huabei Bank, the Beihai Bank and Northwestern Farmers’ Bank. The headquarters was first located in Shijiazhuang, Hebei, and then moved to Beijing in 1949. Between 1950 and 1978 the PBC was the only bank in the People’s Republic of China and was responsible for both central banking and commercial banking operations. All other banks within Mainland China such as the Bank of China were either organized as divisions of the PBC or were non-deposit taking agencies.
From 1952 to 1955 government shares were added to private banks to make state-private banks, until under the first Five Year plan from 1955 to 1959 the PBC had complete control of the private banks, making them branches of the PBC, closely resembling the vision of Vladimir Lenin. With aid from the Soviet Union, the shares of private enterprises and with them industrial output followed a similar path, forming a Soviet-style planned economy.
During the Cultural Revolution, the PBC suspended its commercial banking service. In 1969, the State Council approved the consolidation of PBC’s headquarters as a bureau within the Ministry of Finance. Local PBC branches were merged into local government finance departments. This effective demotion of the PBC lasted for a decade until August 1979, when the PBC was separated from the Ministry.
With the exception of special allocations for rural development, the monolithic PBC dominated all business transactions and credit until 1978, when, as part of the Chinese economic reforms, the State Council split off the commercial banking functions of the PBC into four independent but state-owned banks, including the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the Bank of China (BOC), the Agricultural Bank of China (ABC), and the China Construction Bank (CCB). In September 1983, the State Council promulgated that the PBC would function exclusively as the central bank of China and no longer undertake commercial banking activities.
Chen Yuan was instrumental in modernizing the bank in the early 1990s. Its central bank status was legally confirmed on March 18, 1995, by the 3rd Plenum of the 8th National People’s Congress, and was granted a higher degree of independence than other State Council ministries by an act that year.
In 1996 and 1996, the PBC established fundamental regulations on loans and consumer credit.
In 1998, the PBC underwent a major restructuring. All provincial and local branches were abolished, and the PBC opened nine regional branches, whose boundaries did not correspond to local administrative boundaries.
In 2003, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress approved an amendment law for strengthening the role of PBC in the making and implementation of monetary policy for safeguarding the overall financial stability and provision of financial services
In 2006, the PBC established the Credit Reference Centre to provide financial credit reporting.
During the Great Recession, the PBC helped address bank liquidity crisis by signing swap agreements with numerous other countries to provide them with liquidity based on the renminbi. As of 2021, China has swap agreements with 40 countries. The PBC underwent through another major restructuring in 2023, with the abolishment of the regional arms and reopening of the previous provincial and local branches. Additionally, its county-level branches were absorbed by city-level branches. The oversight over financial holding companies and financial consumer protection was also transferred from the PBC to the newly established National Administration of Financial Regulation. The new branches were inaugurated on 18 August 2023.
The PBC has branches in each 31 provincial-level administrative divisions in China, branches in five cities (Shenzhen, Dalian, Ningbo, Qingdao, and Xiamen), and 317 branches in prefecture-level divisions. It has 6 overseas representative offices (PBC Representative Office for America, PBC Representative Office (London) for Europe, PBC Tokyo Representative Office, PBC Frankfurt Representative Office, PBC Representative Office for Africa, Liaison Office of the PBC in the Caribbean Development Bank).
The PBC Monetary Policy Committee is an advisory body chaired by the PBC governor. It typically includes the directors and deputy directors of other financial agencies, as well as a few influential academic economists.
The PBC consists of functional departments (bureaus) as below:
- General Administration Department (General Office of the CCP PBC Committee)
- Legal Affairs Department
- Monetary Policy Department
- Macroprudential Policy Bureau
- Financial Market Department
- Financial Stability Bureau
- Statistics and Analysis Department
- Accounting and Treasury Department
- Payment System Department
- Technology Department
- Currency, Gold and Silver Bureau
- State Treasury Bureau
- International Department
- Internal Auditing Department
- Human Resources Department (Organization Division of the CCP PBC Committee)
- Research Bureau
- Credit Information System Bureau
- Anti-Money Laundering Bureau (Security Bureau)
- Financial Consumer Protection Bureau
- Education Department of the CCP PBC Committee
- CCP Committee of the PBC Head Office (Office of Inspections)
- Retired Staff Management Bureau
- Office of Senior Advisors
- Staff Union Committee
- Youth League
The following enterprises and institutions are directly under the PBC:
- China Anti-Money Laundering Monitoring and Analysis Center
- PBC Graduate School
- China Financial Publishing House
- Financial News
- China National Clearing Center
- China Banknote Printing and Minting Corporation
- China Gold Coin Incorporation
- China Financial Computerization Corporation
- China Foreign Exchange Trade System
The PBC is active in promoting financial inclusion policy and a member of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion.