China's bank regulator says it will allow the creation of as many as five privately financed banks this year as part of reforms to open the state-controlled industry and support economic growth.

The China Banking Regulatory Commission also said it will look at lowering regulatory barriers to allow foreign banks more access to China.

Regulators promised last year to allow privately financed banks as part of reforms aimed at making China's economy more productive. The state-owned banking industry lends mostly to government companies, and reform advocates say it has to do more to support credit-starved entrepreneurs who create most of China's new jobs and wealth.

The regulatory agency gave no details about what areas of banking private banks will be allowed to operate in.