HONG KONG -- To foreigners, the domestic banking scene in China can look more like the wild West than the Far East - complete with lynchings, boom-and-bust speculation, and institutions teetering on the edge of insolvency.

The march toward a decentralized, market-oriented system holds great promise. But in the short term, it has left regulatory holes that some bankers have sought to exploit through fraud, speculation, or embezzlement.

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