Promotion snub of Wen Jiabao son-in-law takes cue from Xi Jinping?
Surprise promotion within CBRC reflects Xi Jinping's emphasis on merit over connections
George Chen in Shanghai and Jane Cai in Beijing
A reshuffle of senior staff at the mainland bank watchdog offers the clearest signal yet of a shift in the way the new government of President Xi Jinping will promote top officials, sources with ties to the Beijing leadership say.
The appointment of Yang Jiacai as assistant chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, announced on Tuesday, saw him leapfrog Liu Chunhang - the son-in-law of former premier Wen Jiabao and the head of the CBRC statistics and research departments and a member of the elite "reserved official" promotion programme.
"If you read Xi's speeches, even before he was made head of state, it is very clear that he has had second thoughts on 'reserved officials'," a source with close ties to the State Council, told the South China Morning Post.
"He wants to promote and appoint people who are capable and more experienced in different functions of the government."
The "reserved official" scheme provides the talent pool from which the Communist Party has plucked top officials. Scheme members are typically awarded jobs when candidates are equally well-qualified.
Yang's promotion - which sees him take over the role vacated by Yan Qingming, who has been elevated to vice-chairman, succeeding Cai Ersheng - surprised CBRC insiders as well as some senior bankers who had widely expected Liu to get the job.
Liu joined CBRC in 2006 after working abroad for investment bank Morgan Stanley and consultancy firm McKinsey. He obtained a doctorate in economics from Oxford University.
Yang was appointed to his previous job as head of the CBRC's general office less than a year ago. He began his banking career at a small, rural division of the central bank in the late 1980s and has steadily climbed the promotion ladder.
"About half a year ago, Yang was made head of the general office, and now he's going to be the new assistant chairman. This is really like a 'double promotion' within a very short period of time, which I understand is a very rare thing," said a senior banking industry source.
He added that Liu had personally wanted the promotion.
The job of assistant chairman is considered a stepping stone to the post of vice-chairman at the CBRC, which carries the equivalent government rank of vice-minister.
One of the sources said Liu might be made the new head of the CBRC Beijing branch, the same rank of his current department head role, but one level lower than assistant chairman.
Industry watchers say the appointment signals new thinking in the appointment of middle and senior level officials.
A Xinhua report dated April 7, 2009, quoted Xi, then head of the Party School of the Central Committee of Chinese Communist Party, as saying that many young officials had limited working experience, having just "come to the gate of the government bodies directly from the gate of their universities".
More recently in February, Xi spoke about promoting officials who are capable and practical.