Book clue to future of China's central bank head

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 November, 2012, 5:30am

The publication of a book by Zhou Xiaochuan may fuel speculation that China's longest-serving People's Bank of China governor since the 1960s is close to retiring.

The Global Financial Crisis included 45 speeches, articles and interviews by Zhou, 64, from 2007 to this year on his views of the international turmoil, the China Business News, reported. The most recent was from June, and 24 items were being published for the first time, the newspaper said, quoting a publisher's description.

"The expectation is that he will either retire or be moved elsewhere because he has been in his job a long time," said Willy Wo-lap Lam, adjunct professor of history at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. "The publication of the book looks like a swan-song."

Zhou presided over the first change in yuan policy in a decade, when officials ended the peg to the United States dollar in 2005, and is helping to oversee a loosening of controls on interest rates.

His status may become clearer at a Communist Party congress starting next week, where the party will name its central committee in the leadership transition.

Zhou is approaching a decade in the job after taking the role in December 2002. His age indicated that he was likely to step down soon, said Yao Wei, China economist at Societe Generale in Hong Kong.

The book "is his signal to everybody that his tenure is coming to an end", said Bo Zhiyue, senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore's East Asia Institute.

The book was not available from the central bank, which said it would be on sale soon. The bank did not immediately respond to faxed questions seeking comment on when Zhou may leave his role.

Previous collections of Zhou's articles include a July 2008 book containing remarks from 1991 to 2004 on economic reforms, and a December 2008 book, according to listings on e-commerce sites and

Shen Jianguang, chief Asia economist at Mizuho Securities Asia in Hong Kong, said the timing of the new work did not necessarily mean Zhou would retire and a decision would come after the congress.

The PBOC, unlike Western central banks, does not have political independence.