The scramble is on among U.S. multinational banks to begin large-scale lending to the People's Republic of China now that the nation of 900 million people appears ready to embark on an accelerated program of economic development.
Chase Manhattan Bank Chairman David Rockefeller announced yesterday in Hong Kong that his bank is sending a delegation to Peking next month with a series of proposals to finance China's massive modernization program.
The delegation will be headed by Chase President Willard Butcher and will include offers of financial facilities for China's development projects, promotion of U.S. China trade and ways of broadening Chase's banking relationship with China.
Meanwhile Citibank Chairman Walter Wriston and a delegation from his bank were in Peking Nov. 47 for "discussions of a general nature," according to a bank spokesman.
An some other large U.S. domiciled banks including Bank of America, Manufacturers Hanover and the First National Bank of Chicago are all known to be engaged in similar discussions.
According to recent accounts, the People's Republic after years of internal turmoil and hesitation about what development policy to pursue is setting out on what is being labeled the "four modernizations" or a comprehensive and accelerated development program to simultaneously upgrade industry, agriculture, defense and science and technology.
To accomplish this, it has already decided to go outside for capital to finance the ambitious plan, and seems ready to set aside the question of whether a bank has a simultaneous relationship with Taiwan, according to banking sources.
Recently bankers have returned from China with word that the country is prepared to raise capital directly in the international markets and is currently negotiating a $1 billion loan with a group of Japanese banks. A second borrowing of similar magnitude is reportedly being arranged in London's eurodollar market.
China's foreign trade this year is expected to reach $20 billion, although only $1 billion of this is with the U.S. China is said to be particularly interested in developing its mining and offshore oil potential and has held discussions with Exxon, Mobil, Pennzoil, and Phillips Petroleum among others.
The deals, which would amount to billions of dollars, would need bank financing, and the projects in turn would generate income that China could use for development in other areas.
Chase Chairman Rockefeller visited China in 1973 and shortly afterward Chase Manhattan was chosen as the first U.S. bank to serve in a correspondent banking relationship with the Bank of China since ties between the U.S. and mainland China were severed in 1949.
Subsequently, similar correspondent relationships were established with five other banks - the Bank of America, First National Bank of Chicago, Manufacturers Hanover, Citi-bank and Riggs National Bank of Washington.
These correspondent relationships however, were extremly limited and essentially one-way, allowing funds to be transmitted into the People's Republic by wire from the Chinese community around the world.
Last January first Chicago went one step further and established an expanded correspondent relationship that permits it to handle commercial letters of credit, payments, collection and foreign exchange transactions for customers doing business with China.
The bank at the time made a point of announcing that it was simultaneously severing banking relationships with Taiwan. But banking observers note that the bank did not do much with Taiwan in the first place.