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China’s Central Bank Chief Seen Retiring As Reformers Axed

PBOC chief Yi Gang was dumped from the Communist Party’s Central Committee and is seen as likely to retire next year


Governor of People's Bank of China (PBOC) Yi Gang attends a news conference on China's economic development ahead of the 70th anniversary of its founding, in Beijing
The US-educated central bank chief Yi Gang, appointed PBOC governor in 2018, had widely been expected to retire. Photo: Reuters

 

Yi Gang, chief of China’s central bank chief, is likely to step down after being dropped from the Communist Party’s Central Committee, sources have said.

There has been much speculation about the chief of the People’s Bank of China given that Yi is 64 and eligible to retire next year, as the retirement age for minister-level officials is 65.

Some policy insiders and advisers had suggested Yi’s tenure might be extended, as was the case with his predecessor, Zhou Xiaochuan.

But Yi is among pro-reform policymakers not named on Saturday as full or alternate members of the party’s new Central Committee.

 

Li Keqiang Also Dumped

Also excluded were outgoing Premier Li Keqiang, 67, economic czar Liu He, 70, and central bank party chief Guo Shuqing, 66.

Li Keqiang, the nation’s No-2 official, is a proponent of market-oriented reforms, which are in contrast to Xi’s moves to expand state control over the economy.

Li was among four of the seven members of the party’s powerful Politburo Standing Committee who failed to make the new 205-member Central Committee, which was formally elected at the closing session.

That means they will not be reappointed to the Standing Committee in a leadership reshuffle to be unveiled on Sunday. Xi is widely expected to retain the top spot and get a third term as general secretary.

The three others who were dropped were Shanghai party chief Han Zheng, party advisory body head Wang Yang, and Li Zhanshu, a longtime Xi ally and the head of the largely ceremonial legislature.

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Reformers Shown the Door

The changes at the end of the twice-a-decade party congress, were among moves that cemented Xi Jinping’s iron grip on power and appeared to be consolidating control among people close to Xi.

“Yi’s departure looks inevitable,” a policy insider said. “The pro-reform camp is almost out at the party congress.”

Yi was an alternate on the previous Central Committee. His exclusion from the new Central Committee lists means he is almost certain to step down at the annual parliament meeting in March, sources said.

The People’s Bank of China did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The looming reshuffle comes as the PBOC seeks to bolster the Covid-ravaged economy while avoiding aggressive loosening that could fuel capital flight, as the Federal Reserve and other central banks raise interest rates to fight soaring inflation.

 

Leading Candidate

Yin Yong, deputy party chief in the capital Beijing who worked as a deputy central bank governor from 2016 to 2018, is a leading candidate to replace Yi, sources close to the central bank said.

Yin, 53, who holds a doctorate in engineering from Tsinghua University and a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University, was elected as a full member of the Central Committee during the party congress.

“Yin Yong is likely to replace Yi Gang,” said a source close to the PBOC who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Other sources described Yin as well-positioned to replace Yi, given his status as a rising star and his previous experience at the central bank, the foreign exchange regulator and Beijing government.

 

 

Yi Gang a ‘Sea Turtle’

Yi has been PBOC governor since 2018 and is one of China’s highest-ranking “sea turtles” – a term for Chinese returning from overseas. He has a doctorate in economics from the University of Illinois.

The PBOC has been overhauling its top management team in recent weeks. Xuan Changneng was named deputy central bank governor on Thursday.

China faces the biggest overhaul of its economic leadership in a decade, with a generation of reform-minded policymakers expected to step down amid worsening growth prospects.

 

  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard

 

NOTE: This report was updated with new details on October 22, 2022.

 

 

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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years and has a family in Bangkok.

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