Sunday, March 27, 2005

According to the rumor mills in Beijing, it seems that current PBOC assistant to the governor Hu Xiaolian will become the head of SAFE. I was pretty wrong in a previous posting, where I did not even consider Hu as an alternative. Frankly, I simply could not find her CV because the PBOC website, UNLIKE MOST OTHER GOVERNMENT UNITS, does not publish the CVs of senior PBOC officials. Nonetheless, this move was somewhat surprising. At a time when foreign exchange is such an important issue for the regime, it is rather surprising that they actually promoted someone from a lower level instead of rotating someone at the same level. If I am correct, the assistant to the governor is a Si (departmental) level position, not a vice-ministerial position, as the vice-governor post would be, and the head of SAFE is a vice-minister. Granted, most assistants to the governors go on to do great things. The leadership probably chose Hu Xiaolian because of her years of experience at SAFE and, as I point out in a previous post, all major decisions must go through the Politiburo Standing Committee anyway.

But also, she had the right advisor in graduate school! Hu is clearly on a fast-track upward. In the past year alone, Hu went from being the vice head of SAFE to being vice-head of SAFE and the Central Huijin Company taking charge of CCB and BOC. Within a few months, she was rotated to the PBOC to serve as assistant to the governor. Now, she finds herself a vice-minister in charge of SAFE. Like Wu Xiaoling, current vice governor of PBOC and former director of SAFE, Hu Xiaolian graduated from the PBOC graduate school in my old neighborhood, Wu Daokou (just next to the Beijing Foreign Language Institute in Haidian). The founder and president of the school is none other than Liu Hongru, arguably the creator of the modern financial system in China. He pushed for the Big Four state banks to split off from the PBOC in the early 80s and was the single most important force behind the creation of China's stock market. In the 80s, he founded the PBOC Graduate School which trained a cohort of financial experts who are now taking the rein all over the financial sector. In the recent round of shuffle, another one of his students, Tang Kui, just became the head of the PBOC Research Department. His other students include Xia Bin (current head of the finance institute at DRC), and Wei Benhua (vice head of SAFE). With Wu Xiaolin likely to get a promotion some time soon and Hu Xiaolian on a fast-track upward, Liu, though now 75, is likely to have a continual influence in financial development in China in the coming decades.

UPDATE 3-EXCLUSIVE-China to name central banker as forex boss.

By Kevin Yao and Shen Yan
597 words
25 March 2005
04:25 am
Reuters News

(c) 2005 Reuters Limited

BEIJING, March 25 (Reuters) - Central banker Hu Xiaolian will be named China's top foreign exchange regulator, taking over the running of the country's massive currency reserves and steering planned forex reforms, a government source said on Friday. Hu, one of three assistant governors of the People's Bank of China, will replace Guo Shuqing, who was confirmed on Friday as the new chairman of scandal-hit China Construction Bank. "A formal appointment is expected to be announced next week," said an official at a key government agency who declined to be identified. Hu is widely regarded as a top expert on currency management because of her experience at the forex regulator, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE). The 46-year-old served as vice chief of the regulator from 2001 until August last year, when she went to the central bank. Although the central bank is in charge of China's currency policy and the cabinet has the ultimate say, SAFE is instrumental in pushing reforms to make the yuan more flexible and eventually fully convertible, analysts said. Investors and governments worldwide, especially in China's neighbouring countries, are keenly interested in when and how the yuan will be moved away from its current peg to the U.S. dollar. A stronger yuan would make Chinese exports more expensive in overseas markets. A Chinese economist close to the central bank said Hu was widely seen as a rising star in the financial industry. "She had won praise at SAFE and the cental bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan has confidence in her," the economist said. Analysts said the reshuffle was unlikely to affect Beijing's step-by-step currency reforms, even though Guo, the top forex regulator since 2001, had been a central figure in yuan policy. GUO MOVES Guo took up the chairmanship of China Construction Bank , the country's top property lender, on Friday, replacing former chairman Zhang Enzhao, who resigned after a storm of corruption allegations last week, state media said. Zhang resigned for "personal reasons" amid allegations he had taken kickbacks. A Beijing-based company has accused him in a civil suit in a U.S. court of taking a $1 million bribe from a U.S. company seeking to sell software to the bank. This latest scandal to hit China's top banks has cast a shadow over China Construction Bank's efforts to sign up foreign strategic investors ahead of an overseas listing tipped to raise anything from $5 billion to $10 billion. The bank is still hoping to list this year, the official Xinhua news agency said. "The appointment of Guo Shuqing as chairman of China Construction Bank will have a profound effect on the bank's reform and internationalisation," the agency reported. Beijing is scrambling to shore up a creaky financial industry that is saddled with more than $200 billion in bad loans and will face intensifying competition once the market is opened wider to foreign players at the end of 2006. A spokesman at the cental bank declined to comment on the reshuffle. Hu's August appointment as an assistant central bank governor was was one of a series of promotions of younger, well-trained officials that analysts said would help the central bank embrace more market-based policies for managing the economy. China's foreign exchange reserves jumped by more than $200 billion last year to hit $610 billion. They are the world's second-largest, after Japan's.

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