Banking & Finance

Don’t go, Zhou

Central banker keeps job; but CSRC chief goes to Shandong

Don’t go, Zhou

Who says you need to retire at 65? Not Zhou Xiaochuan

Recent photos of Zhou Xiaochuan suggest something unusual about him. Unlike the rest of China’s leadership elite, he seems to have forsaken his quota of the Party’s specially produced black hair dye. As a result, his locks are turning a natural (and dignified) grey.

Then again, Zhou seems to be a man happy to break with convention. That became clear with his reappointment last week as central bank governor, defying restrictions that top officials must retire at 65.

Zhou is already that age but it looks like he won’t be retiring for at least another five years, now that he has been selected for his third term as governor of the People’s Bank of China.

Since taking over in December 2002, Zhou is now the longest serving PBOC governor. He has also been appointed as one of the 25 vice-presidents of the CPPCC (for more on this body, see WiC185). By holding these two senior posts at the same time, Zhou’s “personal authority has reached a peak,” the China Business News reports.

Enjoying a solid rapport with other financial regulators, and bestowed with a reputation as a firm advocate of economic reform, Zhou’s extended tenure came as a welcome sign of continuity for China’s monetary policy. The South China Morning Post reported that Zhou would now stay on to see through his agenda, a key plank of which is internationalising the renminbi. Zhou is “irreplaceable”, the 21CN Business Herald thought.

While Zhou won’t be shifting from his seat, there were musical chairs elsewhere, including the replacement of Guo Shuqing as the chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission by Bank of China chief Xiao Gang. After a fairly brief 18-month tenure at the CSRC, Guo will become deputy Party chief (and reportedly governor) of Shandong province.

The unusual decision to move an A-list financial technocrat sideways into a provincial post has puzzled many onlookers. “What else could Guo expect after hitting the vested interests in the stock market?” one netizen quipped.

Then again, making the 56 year-old number two in one of China’s leading provinces (Shandong has a GDP of Rmb5 trillion, or $805 billion) may signal Guo is on track for higher office in five years time.

It may be too that he has been sent there as part of a provincial level cleaning of house.

As readers will recall, the former deputy governor of Shandong, Huang Sheng, was purged for massive corruption in late 2011 (see WiC131).

© ChinTell Ltd. All rights reserved.

Sponsored by HSBC.

The Week in China website and the weekly magazine publications are owned and maintained by ChinTell Limited, Hong Kong. Neither HSBC nor any member of the HSBC group of companies ("HSBC") endorses the contents and/or is involved in selecting, creating or editing the contents of the Week in China website or the Week in China magazine. The views expressed in these publications are solely the views of ChinTell Limited and do not necessarily reflect the views or investment ideas of HSBC. No responsibility will therefore be assumed by HSBC for the contents of these publications or for the errors or omissions therein.