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China: Brokers in the pack

China’s leading brokerage firms continue to dominate domestic business. As China becomes an ever-greater slice of Asian investment business, can they translate that into a regional leadership position as well?

Fat cats have no place in the banks of the People’s Republic of China. The chairman of ICBC, the world’s most profitable bank, made a relatively paltry $300,000 last year.

That is $22.6 million less than JPMorgan paid Jamie Dimon in the same period. It is enough to make even the harshest critic of banking excess weep.

Jiang Jianqing’s salary, although nobody’s idea of a pittance, nonetheless demonstrates the stark differences between the Chinese and western systems. Perhaps it is because Dimon went to Harvard and was appointed by the board of directors of JPMorgan, while Jianqing worked in a coal mine, one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, during China’s Cultural Revolution, and was appointed by the ruling Communist Party’s central organization.

It’s statistics like these that pose the question: how can western and Chinese banks compete on level terms? In China, the matter is particularly pressing: Chinese brokers and investment banks dominate. As China’s domestic business builds, that means increasingly that Chinese firms lead the Asia non-Japan league tables.

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