Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Here's When (and Where) to Watch for the Next PBOC Governor

  • December’s possible, at the bi-monthly meet of top legislators
  • By the end of March you will know if Zhou’s staying or going

The People’s Bank of China could be the next major central bank in line for new leadership.

As Jerome Powell prepares to take the helm of the U.S. Federal Reserve after a much-awaited reveal by President Donald Trump, PBOC-watchers are also anticipating a big announcement. In China though, the process is likely to be less straightforward.

Firstly, no one can be totally sure if Governor Zhou Xiaochuan will leave his post. Speculation began swirling when he passed the conventional retirement age of 65 in 2013, but he’s still in his job and making his presence felt as a leading voice warning about the risks building up in China’s financial system.

The question of who’ll replace him and how it will be announced is now gaining urgency after Zhou himself hinted at a retirement "soon."

If history’s a guide, here’s how it could play out:

December 2017  

The National People’s Congress Standing Committee, or the top legislation body, has the power to approve the appointment of the PBOC governor. This is how Zhou was named in 2002.

The NPC panel meets every other month, with the next due in December. Specific dates will be decided just days ahead of the meeting and voting for new government officials always takes place on the final day of a session.

On the day, Premier Li Keqiang will present his nomination, and some 150 legislators will vote on it by pressing the approve or disapprove button on a machine installed at their desk. Results will be announced to the officials and state-run media will publish it later in the day.

So Xinhua News Agency is your best bet for the reveal. In a less likely situation, it could also come from the State Council website.

Early (probably March) 2018

By March you’ll know for sure if Zhou will stay or go.

That’s when the National People’s Congress typically convenes its annual meeting, where it decides the country’s president, premier and ministers, including the PBOC governor. Zhou was re-appointed -- surprising the markets -- at this gathering in 2013. 

Again, voting takes place on the last day. About 3,000 legislators will vote for or against the premier’s nomination, putting their ballots into a box that can automatically scan the votes. Results will be announced after a short break. However, you won’t officially know the number of votes each candidate won, so if you’re really curious keep an eye on the personal Weibo accounts of reporters at the meeting.

In the unlikely situation that the nomination was vetoed, the premier will submit a new candidate to the NPC standing committee at the bi-monthly session we’ve discussed earlier. However, this has never happened before.

Anytime, Really

This is a possibility. The leadership could sideline Zhou and appoint a new Party chief to the PBOC at any time before March.

In this case, the announcement could come from Xinhua, China National Radio’s 6:30 p.m. broadcast, or China Central Television’s 7 p.m. news briefing. Stay tuned.

— With assistance by Yinan Zhao, Keith Zhai, Ting Shi, and Zheng Wu

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