The mainland leadership has decided to appoint Lou Jiwei, the chairman of its sovereign wealth fund known for his reformist outlook and financial experience, to be the next finance minister.
The appointment is part of a major cabinet reshuffle due to be approved by the top legislature this month.
Government sources said Lou, 62, would replace Xie Xuren to lead fiscal policy after the National People's Congress (NPC), which opens on Tuesday.
At 66, Xie has passed the retirement age of 65 for a minister.
The decision comes after Communist Party bosses including party chief Xi Jinping and premier-in-waiting Li Keqiang decided to keep Zhou Xiaochuan as central bank governor despite him reaching retirement age.
In another top appointment, Zhang Xiaoqiang, a vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, will be appointed chairman of the board of supervisors of the nation's sovereign wealth fund, the China Investment Corporation (CIC), replacing Jin Liqun . Jin will become chairman of China International Capital Corp (CICC), the mainland's leading investment bank, while former CICC top boss Li Jiange will become chairman of Shenyin Wanguo Securities. It remains to be seen who will be picked to fill the vacancy left by Lou.
Since its launch in 2007, the US$482 billion sovereign wealth fund has been beset by controversy due to its lacklustre performance and obstructions to its attempts to make acquisitions abroad.
A key appointment not yet disclosed is who will head the national pension fund, a significant reserve fund to support the mainland's ageing population, as chairman Dai Xianglong is set to retire.
The top leadership has nearly completed the personnel arrangements for the heads of the key financial regulatory bodies ahead of the NPC, with all chiefs of the banking, securities and insurance watchdogs retaining their posts. Shang Fulin will remain chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission; Guo Shuqing will continue to oversee the China Securities Regulatory Commission; and Xiang Junbo will stay on in the post of China Insurance Regulatory Commission chairman.
Lou was the leading candidate to be the next finance minister after securing a seat on the party's Central Committee in November.
The appointments are set to be passed by the NPC, the rubber-stamp legislature.
It is believed that a minor change in the line-up of the country's top financial regulators will ensure the originally planned economic and financial reforms will stay on course, while new party and state leaders hope to consolidate their power amid economic and financial stability.
China is on the way to creating a market-based interest rate mechanism, internationalising its currency, directing a freer cross-border fund flow on the capital markets and launching more financial derivatives.
Officials also want to nurture the growth of a clutch of powerful financial conglomerates on par with global big names such as HSBC and Morgan Stanley.
"No matter who is designated to implement the planned policy changes, the reforms will continue," said Chen Xuebin, the deputy director of the Institute for Financial Studies at Fudan University.
"The personnel arrangements are of little significance."
Lou, an economist who owes his political rise to former premier Zhu Rongji , was a vice-finance minister between 1998 and 2007 before becoming the head of the China Investment Corporation when Beijing launched the high-profile sovereign fund. He carries the rank of a minister.