The underground lending industry was battered by the slump in global demand in 2010. That caused a wave of business failures and defaults, prompting protests in some areas and making savers wary of lending.
Chinese leaders have promised repeatedly to have state banks lend more to the private sector. But most loans still go to state enterprises that have close ties with banks and influential officials. Entrepreneurs say it is no easier to get a loan.
The promise of more lending "is only an aspiration," said Yin, the CASS researcher. "If nothing changes in the system, the difficulty of financing the private sector will remain unresolved."
AP researchers Fu Ting in Shanghai and Flora Ji in Beijing contributed.
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