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Bank of China, the oldest bank in China, was founded in February 1912. Between 1912 to 1949, the function of Bank of China changed for three times: central bank of the government from 1912 to 1928, government authorized international exchange bank in 1928 and specialized international trade bank in 1942.

Bank of China was taken over by newly-founded government of People's Republic of China in 1949 and in December of the same year, the Bank of China General Management Department was moved from Shanghai to Beijing. In 1950, Bank of China General Management Department was under the leadership of the People's Bank of China head office. On October 27, 1953, Bank of China was authorized as a specialized foreign exchange bank under the Articles of Association of Bank of China issued by the Government Administration Council of the Central People's Government.

On March 13, 1979, Bank of China was separated from the People's Bank of China with approval of the State Council and exercised the functions of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange under direct leadership of the State Council. As Bank of China General Management Department was reformed into Bank of China head office, its responsibilities were focused on unified operation and centralized management of national foreign exchange business. In September 1983, since People's Bank of China was authorized as central bank by the State Council and Bank of China was separated from the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, functions of these institutions were separated but Bank of China still held the responsibility of operating the national foreign exchange business. Bank of China by then became specialized foreign exchange and trade bank under the supervision of the People's Bank of China.

Bank of China has made considerable achievements in all business activities since the reform and opening up and ranked among the world's largest banks. In early 1994, it was transformed from a specialized foreign exchange and trade bank to a state-owned commercial bank in accordance with the reform of the national financial system.

In 2003, Bank of China was selected by the State as one of the two pilot banks for the joint stock restructuring of state-owned commercial banks.

On July 14, 2004, Bank of China Limited became the sole partner bank of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

On August 26, 2004, with equity controlled investment of Central Hui Jin Investment Ltd., Bank of China was approved to incorporate as Bank of China Limited by the State Council and the China Banking Regulatory Commission. On this basis, strategic investors were introduced to further strengthen internal management, deepen the internal reform and improve the operational mechanism.

On June 1, and July 5, 2006, Bank of China Limited was listed on the Hong Kong Exchange and Clearing Limited and Shanghai Stock Exchange.

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