First it was Baoshang Bank , then it was Bank of Jinzhou, then, two months ago, China’s Heng Feng Bank with 1.4 trillion yuan in assets, quietly failed and was just as quietly nationalized. Today, a fourth prominent Chinese bank was on the verge of collapse under the weight of its bad loans, only this time the failure was far less quiet, as depositors of the rural lender swarmed the bank’s retail outlets, demanding their money in an angry demonstration of what Beijing is terrified of the most: a bank run.
Local business leaders, political cadres and banking executives rallied Thursday at the main branch of Henan Yichuan Rural Commercial Bank, just outside the central Chinese city of Luoyang, where they stood one by one before a microphone to pledge their backing for the bank, as smiling employees brandished wads of cash before television cameras to demonstrate just how much cash, literally, the bank had.
It was China’s latest, and most desperate attempt yet to project stability and reassure the public that all is well after rumors spread that the bank’s chairman was in trouble and the bank was on the brink of insolvency. However, as the WSJ reports, it wasn’t enough for 31-year-old Li Xue, who showed up for the third day Thursday to withdraw thousands of yuan of her mother’s life savings after hearing from fellow villagers that Yichuan Bank – which is the largest lender in Yichuan county by the number of branches and capital, and it is also a member of PBOC’s deposit insurance system, according to the local government – was going under.
Just like any self-respecting Ponzi scheme, the bank’s branch managers tried to persuade her to keep her money with them until March, when her mother’s three-year deposits would mature, yielding more than 10,000 yuan in interest. And then, just like any Ponzi scheme, to sweeten the offer, the bank managers also offered her even higher-yielding products, plus supermarket gift cards, just to keep her money there..
“Our bank is state-backed, and your money is insured by deposit insurance,” one female manager told her, but Ms. Li refused, her confidence in the state’s lies crushed.
“We really can’t afford to lose the money,” she said.
The bank run at Yichuan Bank, located in China’s landlocked province of Henan, makes it at least the fourth bank that authorities have rushed to rescue this year. It won’t be the last.