BEIJING -- China's rural financial institutions have mushroomed, with 400 village banks in operation as of the end of the first quarter of this year, the nation's banking regulator said Saturday.
As of the end of the first quarter, 448 rural financial institutions were in business, and 104 more are currently under construction, said Zhou Mubing, vice chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC).
Sixty percent of the banks are located in central and western China, and the rest are in China's eastern regions, he said during the fourth China Village Bank Development Forum.
He noted that the CBRC has worked to give private investors better access to the rural financial market in recent years, which has helped to vitalize the market.
The commission will encourage similar initiatives in less-developed regions in central and western China, he said.
While ensuring the sustainable development of new rural financial institutions, village banks should also watch out for financial risks.
As of the end of March, the collective loan balance of the country's rural financial institutions stood at 73.3 billion yuan ($11.3 billion), of which 83.4 percent went to farmers and small businesses, according to the CBRC.