China’s central bank chief expected to step down over reshuffle

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By Kevin Yao and Xie Yu

BEIJING/HONG KONG, Oct 22 (Reuters) – China’s central bank chief Yi Gang is set to resign after being sacked from an elite body of the ruling Communist Party, with a former central banker a leading candidate to his estate, sources close to the central bank said.

The potential retirement in early 2023 of Yi, 64, has been the subject of intense speculation as he nears the official retirement age of 65 for ministerial-level officials. Some insiders and political advisers had suggested that Yi’s term could be extended, as was the case with his predecessor, Zhou Xiaochuan.

Yi is among the pro-reform policymakers who were not named as full or alternate members of the party’s new Central Committee on Saturday. Also excluded are outgoing Prime Minister Li Keqiang, 67, economic czar Liu He, 70, and central bank party chief Guo Shuqing, 66.

The changes at the end of the two-decade-long Party Congress were among moves that cemented Xi Jinping’s iron grip on power and appeared to cement control among those close to Xi.

“Yi’s departure seems inevitable,” a political insider said. “The pro-reform camp is almost out of the party congress.”

Yi was an alternate to the previous Central Committee. His exclusion from the new Central Committee slates 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 impending reshuffle comes as the PBOC seeks to support the COVID-ravaged economy while avoiding aggressive easing that could fuel capital flight, as the Federal Reserve and other central banks raise interest rates to fight against soaring inflation.

Yin Yong, deputy party chief in the capital Beijing who worked as 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 a full member of the Central Committee at 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 have described Yin as well-placed to replace Yi, given his rising star status and previous experience at the central bank, exchange regulator and government in Beijing.

Yi has served as PBOC governor since 2018 and is one of China’s top-ranked “sea turtles” – a term for Chinese returning from overseas. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Illinois.

The PBOC has shuffled its leadership team in recent weeks. Xuan Changneng was named deputy central bank governor on Thursday.

China is facing the biggest overhaul of its economic leadership in a decade, with a generation of reform-minded policymakers set to step down amid deteriorating growth prospects. (Reporting by Kevin Yao and Xie Yu; Editing by William Mallard)

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