PBOC Governor In Focus as Financial Leadership Reshuffle Nears

Who will lead the People’s Bank of China’s is back in focus as a leadership reshuffle at government agencies and major financial regulators nears.

(Bloomberg) — Who will lead the People’s Bank of China’s is back in focus as a leadership reshuffle at government agencies and major financial regulators nears.

Two officials previously tipped as favorites by analysts are fading out of the picture, with one just starting a new job while the other is reportedly taking on a new role. Central bank veteran Yin Yong became Beijing city’s mayor last month, paving the way for senior positions down the road, while Yi Huiman, who currently heads the top securities watchdog, is likely to take over the banking regulator, Bloomberg reported Friday.  

A new potential candidate has emerged in the meantime: Zhu Hexin, 54, who is currently the chairman of the powerful state-owned conglomerate Citic Group Corp. Zhu is a former deputy governor of the PBOC and is seen by some analysts as a strong contender for the central bank’s top job. 

“Officials with a diverse experience in local governments and corporates are increasingly promoted at financial regulators in recent years,” said Bruce Pang, chief economist for Greater China at Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. “Zhu has worked at all sectors including regional government, commercial banks and financial conglomerates.”

Current PBOC governor Yi Gang is close to the retirement age of 65 for ministers and exited the ranks of the Communist Party’s most senior officials last October. Although Yi’s predecessor Zhou Xiaochuan stayed on as governor after he left the Central Committee, many analysts think Yi’s status and experience is not sufficient for him to be able to do that.

If Yi is replaced, the new governor will need to lead the central bank through a turbulent time, helping the economy get back on its feet following the messy Covid reopening and dealing with the worst property downturn on record to safeguard financial stability. 

The leadership change may be revealed in March, when the national legislature meets and approves key members of the new government, including the premier. 

Here’s a look at some of the candidates analysts are watching for the next central bank governor position:

Zhu Hexin

Turning 55 next month, Zhu has served as the chairman of Citic Group Corp since early 2020. The company is a ministerial-level financial powerhouse directly overseen by the State Council, China’s cabinet, with its business covering banking, a securities brokerage, private equity and insurance. Under his watch, Citic played a major role in rescuing the troubled bad-debt manager China Huarong Asset Management Co.

Zhu spent most of his career in commercial banking, working at the Bank of Communications — a major state bank — for more than 21 years until 2015. He was Bank of China’s vice president between 2015 and 2016, before becoming a vice governor of the southwestern province of Sichuan. He then served as a PBOC deputy governor between 2018 and 2020.

Zhu was named an alternate member of the Communist Party’s Central Committee last October, a sign of his rising status. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and information management systems from Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.

Liu Guiping

Similar to Zhu, 56-year-old Liu Guiping also has a diverse work experience under his belt. A state bank veteran, Liu is currently Tianjin city’s executive vice mayor. He was a deputy governor of the PBOC between 2020 and 2022. 

Liu spent over two decades working at Agricultural Bank of China Ltd., one of China’s largest state banks, in the early part of his career. He also had a stint working as the vice mayor of Chongqing city in southwestern China between 2016 and 2019. 

Guo Ningning

Guo, 52, a rare female senior official, has been the vice governor of Fujian since 2018. Before that, she held a series of roles at two of the biggest state-owned banks, Bank of China Ltd. and Agricultural Bank of China Ltd., Guo holds a PhD in economics from the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing. She also has international experience from managing the Hong Kong and Singapore branches of the Bank of China between 2011 and and 2016.

Zou Jiayi

Zou, 59, is currently the deputy secretary-general of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the top political advisory body. Before that, she was a vice finance minister between 2018 and 2021, and was a member of the PBOC’s monetary policy committee while she held that role. She spent most of her career at the Ministry of Finance in departments related to international economic relations.

–With assistance from Fran Wang.

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.