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China banking regulator, Hubei chief front runners to head central bank-sources

From Reuters - October 13, 2017

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinas top banking regulator Guo Shuqing and veteran banker Jiang Chaoliang are front runners to succeed Zhou Xiaochuan, the countrys longest-serving central bank head who is likely to step down next year, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.

The leadership reshuffle at the Peoples Bank of China (PBOC) is closely watched in global financial markets as monetary policy changes and any moves to further liberalize the financial system of the worlds second-large economy would have repercussions well beyond Chinas shores.

The 69-year-old Zhou has spearheaded financial reforms and boosted the yuan currencys global clout, as well as the central banks policy influence, since taking up his post in 2002.

Zhou is likely to retire around the time of the annual session of parliament next March, according to the seven sources with ties to the leadership and close to the central bank.

Guo, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC), whose rich experience and reformist credentials are similar to Zhous, is seen as more qualified for the job, the sources said.

However, Jiang, the Communist Party chief of Hubei province, has the backing of some top leaders and is seen as having a roughly equal chance of getting the post, they noted.

The PBOC and the CBRC did not respond to Reuters requests for comment, while officials at Hubei Communist Party committees propaganda department declined to comment.

Yi Gang, 59, a PBOC vice-governor who has a PhD in economics from the University of Illinois, is the leading in-house candidate to replace Zhou but is not seen as a frontrunner.

Yi is a well-trained economist who is supported by Zhou, but his background as a sea turtle - a colloquialism for Chinese who have returned from overseas - means he is less likely to gain the full trust of Chinas leaders, the sources said.

One of the sources, who correctly predicted a reshuffle of the countrys top banking, securities and insurance regulators in 2011, said that Guo is most favored, helped by his understanding of the financial markets and the global economy.

His appointment would boost confidence, the source added.

NO DARK HOUSE

Guo, 61, was summoned back to Beijing in February to lead the CBRC after serving as governor of Shandong province for four years - his second regional stint after serving as a deputy governor of Guizhou province in the late 1990s.

Under Guos leadership earlier this year, the CBRC started what was widely dubbed a regulatory windstorm to force banks to cut debt, but he later eased up after the move fueled fears of a liquidity crunch. [nL4N1I63IR]

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