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A swift rise in personal debt, though, is forcing regulators to act. Between 2015 and 2019 the stock of household debt in China rose by about $4.6trn, close to the $5.1trn accrued by Americans over a similar period before the global financial crisis of 2007-09, according to data from Rhodium Group, a consulting firm. The outstanding balance of delinquent consumer receivables could reach nearly 3.3trn yuan ($500bn) next year, up from just 1trn yuan in 2015, reckons iResearch, another consultancy. In June the southern city of Shenzhen drafted the country’s first personal bankruptcy law. Courts routinely heard disputes between lenders and borrowers, but allowed only creditors to file suits. The new law, to be rolled out next year, will offer debtors more protection against creditors. A few other cities are conducting similar experiments, though “these reforms are still very limited,” says Li Jiao of Buren, a law firm. The central one-time offer bank, meanwhile, issued draft rules late last year, threatening to punish banks for working with dodgy debt collectors, though it softened the language before the guidelines took effect on November 1st this year. Government pressure, say industry executives, has prompted consolidation.

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