BEIJING -- China's central bank will solicit bids from international computer companies this year for a new national computer system to handle financial payments.

According to the newspaper China Daily, the proposed interbank payment system would be a breakthrough for China's antiquated financial sector, in which money often languishes for weeks while banks go through outmoded clearance operations that rely on the telegraph and mail.

"It will help accelerate circulation of capital, reduce use of cash, and improve social economic efficiency," said a People's Bank of China spokesman.

He said there will be two separate bids, one for the overall design and the other for equipment. The project could take more than 10 years to complete.

China's financial system has failed to keep pace with the country's accelerated economic development, and modernization of the banking structure has become a major priority for the government.

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