Research Discussion Paper – RDP 2019-11 China's Evolving Monetary Policy Framework in International Context


China's monetary policy framework has evolved considerably over the years. However, official descriptions provide limited detail and it generally remains less well understood than befits the world's second largest economy. This paper takes stock of the evolution of monetary policy in China and, by placing these developments in international context, also contributes to the emerging discussion about whether aspects of monetary policy in China are beginning to converge on advanced economy norms. Our main takeaways are as follows. First, on the institutional set-up, we note that the absence of instrument independence and the nature of accountability mechanisms remain substantial points of difference, reflecting China's single-party state system in which the levers of macroeconomic management remain highly coordinated under the State Council. Second, the objectives for monetary policy in China and how they find practical expression in the operational framework continue to have few parallels in advanced economies, although some implementation features (such as the corridor for policy rates) are more familiar as China continues to transition from a quantity- to price-based monetary system. Third, elements of The People's Bank of China's communication framework are broadly evolving along the lines observed elsewhere, with remaining exceptions mostly a result of China's unique institutional arrangements. Fourth, our empirical analysis of monetary policy transmission points to both similarities and differences: while policy rates now have a larger effect than monetary aggregates on output and bond yields, reflecting a Chinese financial system that is becoming more developed (as in advanced economies in the 1970s–1980s), the similar average inflation outcomes observed in China and advanced economies have been generated through different means. In sum, our analysis suggests that while some aspects of monetary policy in China are beginning to resemble those observed in advanced economies, convergence is neither likely nor even desired by the authorities given China's institutional configuration and preferred model of economic development.