Central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan appears a step nearer retirement after he was left out of a key policymaking group of the ruling Communist Party.
Zhou's name was a notable absence from the list of 205 members of the party's Central Committee, membership of which is a condition of holding a cabinet-ranked job such as central bank chief.
Meanwhile, Commerce Minister Chen Deming, previously an alternate member of the Central Committee, was not on the new list of alternate members, also implying he will be retiring.
Two other notable departures from the central committee were those of Finance Minister Xie Xuren and Zhang Ping , chairman of the powerful National Development and Reform Commission - the top economic planning agency.
Zhou turns 65 in January - the mandatory retirement age for a cabinet minister, although there are cases where people have stayed in post beyond it. He has been central bank chief since December 2002.
A spokesman at the PBOC declined to comment when asked about the decision.
Market analysts have long thought that Zhou was likely to leave the PBOC in any reshuffle of top economic posts prompted by a change of leadership at the top of the party.
The surprise, though, is to see him out of the party's inner circle of power. That precludes him from elevation to another senior role, such as state councillor, a position many analysts had expected him to attain and to use to drive the next round of long-anticipated financial market reforms.
While there was no immediate official announcement of any change at the top of the central bank, market talk centred on the elevation of three men - regarded by analysts as possible PBOC chiefs - to the committee Zhou is leaving.
Financial sector regulators Guo Shuqing , chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), and Xiang Junbo, chairman of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC), were elevated to the central committee.
Bank of China chairman Xiao Gang was also promoted.
Guo, 56, is seen as the front runner, as he has a similar background to Zhou.