China has over the past few years experienced periodic outbreaks of defaults by online peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platforms, with the scale increasing each time.
Another such wave has struck in the past few weeks, with several large platforms going bankrupt. The most influential of these was Tuandai, based in Dongguan, Guangdong Province.
Following Tuandai’s default announcement, more than 1,000 investors protested in front of the Dongguan People’s Government building, where the Chinese Public Security Bureau dispatched several hundred officers to stand guard.
Since last month, P2P lending platforms are reported to have gone into default in many of China’s major cities, including Dongguan, Chengdu, Shenzhen, Hefei and Hangzhou.
The companies include KDW, Formax, Limin, Lingqianguan, Zhongjin Gold, QBM and ZCT, but the most startling is the sudden demise of Tuandai, which involved loans exceeding 14.5 billion yuan (US$2.16 billion), with 220,000 investors likely to lose money.
Tuandai started out as one of China’s Internet financial technology unicorns — start-ups valued in excess of US$1 billion.
Its chief executive officer, Tang Jun (唐軍), is a start-up mentor at an incubator for young innovators and entrepreneurs in Dongguan. Tang has received numerous official accolades and often teaches classes for people born after 1985 on how to set up and finance a company.
However, this wave of large-scale defaults might have happened because lenders have used start-ups for illegal fundraising.
P2P online lending platforms normally function as intermediaries between lenders and borrowers, while collecting a fee for the service. This mode of operation does not create much scope for large-scale defaults to occur.
However, the firms that have run into trouble were not content to just earn service fees. Some of them have used large numbers of dummy accounts to borrow money through their platforms and divert it to other purposes, while continually taking out new loans to repay old ones.
To borrow money, they have to attract lenders by offering higher interest rates, but any Ponzi scheme is bound to collapse eventually.
In theory, P2P lending is good for lender and borrower, because it enables them to save on the operational costs involved in bank loans. This allows lenders to earn a higher rate of interest than they would from a bank deposit, while borrowers pay a lower rate of interest than they would on a bank loan.
However, because of a lack of supervision in China, lending platforms are not transparent and can be turned into cash machines for their operators.
In a chain reaction over 42 days following last year’s Dragon Boat Festival, 104 P2P platforms were hit by defaults, with 7 trillion yuan in loans disappearing and tens of thousands of people losing their money.
Now that benchmark company Tuandai has declared that it is in default, it remains to be seen whether this will induce lenders on other platforms to demand their money back, or whether it will trigger a new wave of defaults or sets off wider sociopolitical repercussions.
Honda Chen is an associate research fellow at the Taiwan Academy of Banking and Finance.
Translated by Julian Clegg
French firm DCI-DESCO in April won a bid to upgrade Taiwan’s Lafayette frigates, which has strained ties between China and France. In 1991, France sold Taiwan six Lafayette frigates and in 1992 sold it 60 Mirage 2000 fighter jets. To prevent arms sales between the nations, China negotiated an agreement with France and in 1994 in a joint statement, France promised that there would be no future arms sales to Taiwan. From China’s point of view, the DCI-DESCO deal constitutes a breach of the agreement, but the French stance is that it is not selling Taiwan new weapons, but instead providing a
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in her inaugural address on May 20 firmly said: “We will not accept the Beijing authorities’ use of ‘one country, two systems’ to downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross-strait status quo.” The Chinese government was not too happy, and later that day, an opinion piece on the Web site of China’s state broadcaster China Central Television said: “While Tsai’s first inaugural address four years ago was read by Beijing as an ‘unfinished answer sheet,’ the one she presented this time was even more below-par.” Speaking to the China Review News Agency, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies vice president
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc worldwide. Despite countries being under pressure economically and from the novel coronavirus, China’s National People’s Congress last month passed national security legislation for Hong Kong, a decision that has shocked the world. Let there be no doubt: This move is the beginning of the end of China’s plans for “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Proposed amendments to extradition laws last year ignited massive protests in Hong Kong, with millions of participants, shocking the world and making confrontation between government forces and those who opposed the change a permanent part of Hong
Protecting domestic workers Ms Heidi Chang’s (張姮燕) article (“Employers need protections too,” May 24, page 6) made the case that “migrant workers’” rights had improved in Taiwan, but employers’ rights had not, going so far as to complain that all employers are treated equally under the law — as though this was not how the law was supposed to work. The truth is that the rights of foreign blue-collar workers have still not caught up with the rights their employers have always enjoyed. This segment of the foreign community in Taiwan is more likely than other groups to encounter abuse. Recently, a care