While China’s potential to play a major role in the financial markets has been long-documented, the country this year appears to be a experiencing a watershed moment, Lukken said in remarks at the 43rd annual International Futures Industry Conference, held in Boca Raton, Florida, March 13-16.

Lukken, who sits on the chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission's (CSRC) International Advisory Committee, said it was clear at a recent meeting that President Xi Jinping is driving the modernization of China’s nascent financial markets so they can better serve the world’s second largest economy.

“Notably, in a couple of weeks, the Shanghai International Energy Exchange [INE] will for the first time provide direct foreign access to a Chinese futures market,” he told delegates, referring to the long-awaited launch of a crude oil futures contract on March 26.

INE, whose parent is the Shanghai Futures Exchange, is China’s first commodity futures venue that allows foreign players to participate in trading.

“Iron ore is already next in the queue, and the CSRC is actively exploring the cross-listing of index futures contracts between Chinese and foreign exchanges,” he said.

“Just as powerful a trend will be in the reverse direction with the increased participation of Chinese institutions in Western markets. A few Chinese brokers have already joined exchanges in Europe and the US, and the CSRC has indicated that they plan to approve more,” Lukken noted.

The London Metal Exchange, itself owned by Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing (HKEX) since 2012, has several Chinese institutions as members. These include CCBI Metdist Global Commodities (UK) Limited, GF Financial Markets (UK) Limited, BOCI Global Commodities (UK) Limited, China Merchants Securities (UK) Limited, ICBC Standard Bank, and BGRIMM Lilan Consulting Corp.

He noted that the Chinese have an expression - “crossing the river by feeling for stones” - to signify their methodical and measured pace.

“In my view, China’s unified leadership and direction make it feel like China is starting to skip across the river. Or to quote [investment management firm] Pimco analysts, it's time to shift our perspective from ‘made in China’ to ‘trade in China,’” he said.

The FIA is a trade association representing the cleared derivatives industry.