Global investors are again betting on Chinese A-shares' future as the latest opportunity has arisen for them to be included in a flagship global benchmarks index.
New York-based global equity indexes provider MSCI has begun a consultation on including the shares in its Emerging Markets Index to be published in June. Such a move would be viewed as a landmark recognition of China's capital market and attract more foreign investors.
The safest bet is that it is only a matter of time before such recognition comes. At the same time, too much hesitation serves nobody's interests.
MSCI decided against including Chinese A-shares in the Emerging Markets Index last year, citing concerns about the quota allocation process, capital mobility restrictions and beneficial ownership.
Although access to Chinese onshore equity and bond markets is still controlled by a quota system, the gatekeepers have been steadily opening the doors to the capital markets since that disappointing MSCI decision.
China has raised the ceiling for single QFII investment volume and cut the time for principal lock-up. Open funds are allowed to flow freely within a required monthly amount to improve liquidity.
The Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, a program to expand foreign fund access to China without quota restrictions, has seen active transactions since establishment in 2014. Similar initiatives to connect Shenzhen with Hong Kong and Shanghai with London to make the market more accessible are also in the pipeline.
Of course, the Chinese capital market, one dominated by retail investors, still has much room for improvement as evidenced by last year's stock market rout and the Chinese yuan's depreciation, which have led to more caution in further opening up.
However, this should be viewed with a longer-term perspective as just like China's economic slowdown, the challenges are generally short-term volatilities.
The important thing is to realize that inclusion in Emerging Markets Index is not the end, but just a start to pushing more opening up and higher maturity of the global capital market.
Global investors need emerging markets like China's A-shares to diversify their investment portfolio and gain from potential steady growth, while China looks forward to more rational international investors, investing philosophies and game rules, which should be the real significance of the MSCI inclusion.
The MSCI China A International index, designed for international investors with quotas for investing in the domestic yuan-denominated stock markets, performed better than other Asian markets and the Standard & Poor's 500 index in the past month, indicating growing popularity among international investors over China-related stocks as the country's economic restructuring gains steam.
The sooner MSCI includes Chinese A-shares, the sooner the Chinese as well as global capital market will mature, and the more opportunities international investors will enjoy, which will be a virtuous cycle with win-win outcomes in the long run.
Discretion is necessary as global clients are cautious about including new stock markets, but this decision can not come soon enough for the world and China to benefit.
MSCI's inclusion of Chinese A-shares is as inevitable as China's determination to promote capital market liberalization is unquestionable. It's better to be part of the opening-up process instead of just waiting for the perfect moment.