Determining factors of the development of a national financial center: The case of China

Simon X.B. Zhao*, Li Zhang, Danny T. Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study explores, theoretically and empirically, one of the important issues of the geography of finance, namely the location of high-level financial services. Specifically, we will try to explain why foreign financial services are spatially concentrated in a particular city so as to form a national financial center in China. By reviewing various forces behind the formation of a financial center, we argue that information problems have created the need for geographic agglomeration of financial activities based on the source of information. This is true even in an era when financial markets work through sophisticated telecommunication networks. Based on a survey of the actual location of multinational corporation (MNC) regional headquarters, and through investigation of reasons for the agglomeration of these headquarters, we anticipate that Beijing, as the prime source of policy information, is more likely than other Chinese cities to be the national pre-eminent financial center when the Chinese financial markets become more open to foreign firms in the near future. This study illustrates, using China as a case study, that geography still provides strong justification of why major financial services continue to have a high degree of spatial agglomeration in particular locations, despite the fact that the electronic transmission of information has substantially reduced the friction of distance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 577-592
Number of pages16
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2004


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