Beijing will soon officially announce the new chairman for China Investment Corp – ending months of internal debates and power struggles over who will manage the US$480 billion sovereign fund of the world's second largest economy.
Ding Xuedong, currently deputy secretary-general of the State Council, China’s cabinet, is expected to be officially named the new CIC chairman, two sources familiar with the hiring process said. Ding, 53, is the youngest ever deputy secretary-general. He was also vice finance minister for about two years between 2008 and 2010.
“Hopefully, you will see an official announcement about this [the new CIC chairman] within just a few days,” said one of the sources.
Another source, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter, said that Ding, who has worked closely with Vice Premier Wang Yang in the cabinet, will visit CIC's head office in Beijing to meet with senior executives on Friday afternoon.
The chairman’s office at CIC has been empty for about three months since former chairman Lou Jiwei, who helped establish the CIC in 2007, was promoted to finance minister as part of the Communist Party’s once-a-decade leadership transition earlier this year.
During that changeover, Beijing’s other top finance jobs - heading up the central bank, China Development Bank and the mainland’s “big four” state-owned lenders - were all filled. But the CIC was the notable exception.
The hiring process for the new CIC chairman has remained secretive, drawing much interest from the global financial community and the press. Candidates previously rumoured for the job include Ning Gaoning, chairman of the powerful state-owned China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corp, also known as COFCO, and Huang Qifan, currently mayor of Chongqing and Tu Guangshao, now deputy mayor of Shanghai and a former vice chairman at the mainland’s securities watchdog.
Beijing also pitched some senior commercial bankers and financial regulators for the CIC chairman’s job, sources said.
The cabinet, led by Premier Li Keqiang, could not agree on CIC’s chairman job appointment for several months due to various factors. Some candidates personally didn’t want the job because they were worried that some of CIC’s earlier investments might turn into losses over the next few years. Others cannot win enough support from the majority of cabinet members. This was partly because of personal economic backgrounds and career experience, the sources explained.
Appointing Ding, a rising star in Chinese political circles, new chairman of the CIC is considered a “safe choice”. This is because of Ding’s previous close working ties with cabinet members and his experience in the finance ministry - mostly relating to agricultural finance. However, his lack of investment experience in international capital markets may raise some doubts from his peers – including some western asset managers.