Mark Newman, one of two assistant treasurers at General Motors Corp., works these days in the New York treasurer's office. But as the former CFO of Shanghai General Motors, his expertise will no doubt be called upon when GM moves its Asia regional treasury hub from Singapore to Shanghai sometime next year. "One of the biggest challenges is likely to be hiring local M.B.A. graduates with appropriate capital markets and treasury experience," Newman predicts.

As he will quickly tell you, if a company starts up a treasury operation with the expectation that it will function anything like treasury operations in other regions, that company will be disappointed. There are many hurdles to normal treasury operations–some are regulatory and some are cultural, says Newman. "The financial professional's mindset is, 'Tell me the rules and I'll apply them.' But in China, context is important."

Perhaps the greatest testament to the commercial potential of China is the acknowledgement by the biggest multinationals that it is no longer good enough to run regional treasury out of Singapore or Tokyo, that it is necessary to have a treasury function on the ground in China despite the many obstacles that make the job of the treasury professional that much harder. Companies like Honeywell International Inc. and General Motors have either relocated their Asia-Pacific regional treasury offices to Shanghai or are in the process of doing so. Inevitably, most will follow. "China has emerged as the most important new financial market of the 21st century," asserts Carter Booth, an independent consultant and international banker. "Increasingly, major corporations will have to establish treasury facilities to support their China and regional operations."

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