The authors created experimental variation across local markets in China in the share of firms having access to a new loan product, to measure the direct and indirect effects of access to finance. The authors find that: (1) Access to finance had a large positive direct effect on the performance of treated firms. (2) Access to finance had a similar-sized negative indirect effect on the performance of firms with treated competitors. The two effects offset in the aggregate and imply no detectable gains in producer surplus. (3) Access to finance had a positive direct effect on business practices, service quality, and consumer satisfaction, and a negative effect on price. None of these effects were offset by indirect effects, suggesting net gains in consumer surplus. (4) Two additional indirect effects were active: diffusion of borrowing to firms with treated peers, and diffusion of demand to firms with treated neighbors. (5) Combining several effects in a model-based evaluation, the authors estimate that the loan had a private return of 74%, most of which was offset by losses to competitors, and a social return of 60%, most of which was driven by gains to consumers.

About the Seminar Series

Financial market development goes hand-in-hand with economic growth. The development of China’s capital markets in terms of size, regulations, capability, and efficiency has been impressive. China may now even lead globally in some dimensions, notably e-payments systems. Yet, China’s capital markets are still a work-in-progress facing both generic and unique challenges. Other Asian capital markets have even greater uneven development. Some in advanced Asian economies have acquired globally acclaimed reputation and capabilities while various regulatory and structural weaknesses dwarf others. Corporations and investors have been inclined to arbitrage cross-border regulatory and developmental gaps; so the very uneven status of capital markets across Asia is a policy issue for the governments in the entire region and perhaps globally. Analyzing the positive and negative lessons in the functioning of Asia’s capital markets, and identifying reforms and applications of technology that could further improve Asian capital markets’ allocation efficiency, financial inclusion, and forewarning against reforms that might cause problems can benefit practitioners, policymakers and researchers, and can contribute significantly to overall prosperity.

The ABFER and the University of Chicago’s Becker Friedman Institute China (BFI-China), in collaboration with National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School, Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance (SAIF), The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Department of Economics, CUHK-Shenzhen and Tsinghua University PBC School of Finance (Tsinghua PBCSF), hope to provide a virtual network to benefit researchers, policymakers, and practitioners from Asia and beyond.

All times are listed in China Standard Time.