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China's Unprecedented Proactive Bubble-Bursting

Stocks in this article: SINA FXI

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- What has been happening in Chinese market since about a week ago is much more spectacular and profound than the official FOMC taper talk in many ways. Although it may not impact many investors in the U.S. directly, I suspect people interested in monetary policy and financial regulation will talk about it for a long time to come.

Overnight Shibor, the Chinese equivalent of Libor, or the benchmark rate for inter-bank short-term borrowing, shot as high as 13.44% on June 20. As a comparison, Libor overnight peaked at 6.88% during the 2008 crisis. Overnight repo rate was even crazier, reaching 25% briefly, though on very small volume. This is full-scale panic by any measure. It has calmed down quite a bit since, with the latest overnight Shibor at 5.736%. Still stressed, but no longer hyperventilating.

But more striking is what's not happening. People's Bank of China, China's central bank, did nothing. Yesterday it published a memo, issued to all major banks on June 17, saying that inter-bank liquidity is aplenty, we ain't seen no problems, y'all should watch out your risk management and plan ahead, good luck kids. In contrast to the hysterical cry of "the end is nigh please, pleeeeeze have some mercy for Mao's sake" all over Chinese financial industry, the apathy is both comical and intriguing.

And the cruel aloofness gets more striking considering that PBoC has made doves in the Fed look hawkish since the 2008 crisis. The moment any bank made a fuss, PBoC was there to provide liquidity, so much so that it earned a popular nickname of "Central Mommy," used with both affection and mockery (more of the latter, I suspect).

What prompted this 180-degree turnaround and what are the implications?

The credit/blame goes to the very top; after all, the PBoC head, Zhou Xiaochuan, has been one and the same since 2003 (and don't even think about Chinese central bank independence, which is a bigger joke than the general central bank independence). The last leadership in Beijing, which covered from 2002 to 2012, had been spectacularly mediocre and incompetent in every way, perhaps purposefully so by the entire leadership and those who chose them.

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