18th Party Congress

China central bank, sovereign fund to get new bosses

Political patronage and reward for performance records are set to play major roles when the mainland selects its new key monetary officials

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 October, 2012, 11:00am

As Beijing's once-in-a-decade leadership transition looms, a rare reshuffle of top finance-related government jobs is set to unfold next year, including likely new heads at both the central bank and the sovereign wealth fund.

People in the financial industry expect to find more clues as to who will be put in charge of several important government bodies after the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party convenes early next month.

At that time, a new standing committee of the Politburo, the nation's highest and most powerful decision-making body, will be elected.

Once the new leadership was in place and a government was officially formed early next year, other key ministerial-level jobs would be settled quickly, government watchers said.

China Investment Corp, the mainland's US$300 billion sovereign wealth fund, is expected to get a new boss because its present chairman, Lou Jiwei, is likely to get a promotion, after successfully launching the fund about five years ago, according to people in the financial industry who have been briefed on the matter.

The sources said that Lou, 61, had now emerged as the front runner to replace Zhou Xiaochuan as the next governor of the People's Bank of China, the mainland's central bank.

Zhou, 64, is expected to step down next year when he will turn 65, the retirement age for senior officials. He may later become a senior government adviser.

Before launching CIC in 2007, Lou, a strong ally and close friend of Wang Qishan, one of the four vice-premiers who is now mainly in charge of financial affairs, was the nation's deputy finance minister for almost nine years.

Other potential candidates for the role of central bank chief include Guo Shuqing, 56, the chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission who has been in that job for only a year, and Xiao Gang, 54, the chairman of the Bank of China, one of the mainland's Big Four state lenders.

Guo and Xiao each had powerful political backers, the sources said.

"At this moment, nothing is solid yet. To some extent, Lou's next career path will depend on the political fate of Wang and now it's unclear what Wang's next job will be," said one person, referring to the vice-premier who is widely expected to join the standing committee of the Politburo.

Whether Wang will continue to be in charge of financial matters or take up a different role in the new administration remains to be seen.

The sources all asked not to be named because of the highly sensitive nature of the expected reshuffle.

Early this year, Lou was tipped to become finance minister, but was not interested in returning to the ministry, a person familiar with Lou's thinking said.

Another big name in the financial industry expected to fade from the scene is Dai Xianglong, 67, the chairman of the National Council for the Social Security Fund, which manages the mainland's pension fund on behalf of the central government.

With nearly a trillion yuan (HK$1.22 trillion) worth of assets under management, it has emerged as one of the world's largest pension funds in the past decade.

The authorities wanted Dai to stay until the new leadership was in place.

"Next year, Dai will definitely retire. He has told some of his friends in the financial industry that he is ready to enjoy his life after retirement," a source close to him said.