China is set to name a liberal pro-market Anglophile as the next central bank governor, replacing Zhou Xiaochuan upon the latter’s retirement from a post he has held since 2002, two separate sources have revealed.
Guo Shuqing, pictured left, is one of four candidates generally considered to be the front-runners for the job, the others being Jiang Chaoliang, the Hubei party secretary; Yi Gang, a deputy governor at the People’s Bank of China and Liu Shiyu, the chairman of China Securities Regulatory Commission.
A week ago, Reuters was backing Jian for the job, though the two sources, speaking to the South China Morning Post on condition of anonymity, were quite clear that Guo had all but been shown his new office.
Guo, 61, is seen as holding similar liberal market views as Zhou, which would mean business as usual, and would please western investors who will be happy to to have a man who is seen as a committed supported of President Xi Jinping.
Settling western jitters
The appointment will be seen as a sign that Xi is not pulling back from the market liberalisation that he has broadly supported in his presidency, though recent pronouncements on corruption and unfettered deal-making have caused jitters.
Guo is seen very much as part of the reformist, pro-market wing of the Party, a group that has seen its influence somewhat on the wane in Beijing, so his appointment would be taken as sending out a message.
When Zhou was asked yesterday who would replace him, he replied enigmatically, “Who do you think?”
Jiang also swerved questions on the topic at meetings, saying: “I am the party secretary of Hubei. If you want to ask anything about finance, please ask the finance people.”
A fluent English speaker who is also pro-market
Guo spent a year at Oxford University from July 1986 and is one of a small group of senior cadres who can speak directly with their international peers, “a skill that will be valuable for the position as China, currently the world’s second biggest economy, becomes a mighty player in the international monetary community”, said the South China Morning Post.
“Guo is one of the most fluent English speakers among officials of his generation, which would make him an effective communicator when facing international markets, ” said a source in Beijing.
It was as chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), the stock market regulator, in 2011 that Gou showed his zeal for introducing market reform. Many hope that he will show the same enthusiasm if he should be given the powerful role at the central bank.