The youngest-ever deputy secretary general of the mainland's cabinet is poised to take the reins of the country's giant sovereign wealth fund.
The top position at China Investment Corp (CIC) has been unfilled since March, when former chairman Lou Jiwei was appointed finance minister.
Ding Xuedong, 53, spent more than 10 years at the Ministry of Finance, rising to vice-minister, before he was promoted to his State Council job in 2010. Earlier, he was a department head in the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission. Ding holds a doctorate in economics from the Ministry of Finance's research institute.
He made his name as an expert in the ministry on the agricultural sector. In the cabinet, he has worked closely with Wang Yang, the youngest of the four vice-premiers, who assists Premier Li Keqiang in overseeing the sprawling sector and improving long-term food security.
Although Ding's elevation has taken some by surprise, he is seen as a safe choice by the political elite. However, his lack of experience in international capital markets has been a concern, as CIC has sizeable stakes in listed stocks overseas, such as US financial firms Morgan Stanley and Blackstone, and Hong Kong-based commodity group Noble.
CIC's investments in some foreign natural resources companies and financial institutions got back into the black last year. CIC vice-president Gao Xiqing said return on foreign investments was 11 per cent, reversing a loss in 2011, when the US$480 billion sovereign wealth fund suffered a 4.3 per cent loss on its international portfolio.
The chairman's office at CIC has been empty for three months, highlighting a power struggle in Beijing after the top posts at the Big Four state-owned banks and policy lender China Development Bank, as well as the China Banking Regulatory Commission, were all filled after the central government's leadership transition in March.