China: Time of Transition

China's Zhou Re-Appointed Central Bank Chief in Reform Push

Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank of China
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China re-appointed Zhou Xiaochuan as governor of the central bank on Saturday, a move to ensure policy continuity amid global uncertainties and to deepen market-based reforms needed to sustain long-term growth in the world's second-largest economy.

The re-appointment of Zhou, a key driving force behind China's financial liberalisation, signals Beijing's bid to speed broad economic reforms to put economic growth on a more sustainable footing.

Zhou, who took the helm of the People's Bank of China (PBOC) in 2002, has led the drive to liberalise interest rates and abolish the yuan's peg to the U.S. dollar, a step along the path to turning it into a global currency.

Reuters reported last month that Zhou was to keep his central bank post, courtesy of his elevation to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) that carries "national-level leader" rank and exempts him from compulsory retirement at 65 for officials in cabinet minister-ranked jobs.

Zhou reached that age in January.

The announcement, which was widely anticipated following Zhou's election as a deputy chairman of parliament's top advisory body, came on the penultimate day of China's annual session of parliament, the National People's Congress.

It is unclear how long Zhou will remain central bank chief, but a source with leadership ties told Reuters last month that he was needed to drive reforms to unshackle China's currency from capital account controls.

Analysts believe the People's Bank of China (PBOC) aims to make the yuan basically convertible by 2015.

China also appointed Lou Jiwei finance minister and Gao Hucheng commerce minister as the annual session of parliament formally completed the transition to a new leadership.

Lou was previously chairman of China Investment Corp. (CIC) , the country's sovereign wealth fund, while Gao was previously vice commerce minister.

Parliament also voted in Xu Shaoshi as head of the National Development and Reform Commission, the top economic planning agency. Xu was previously China's land and resources minister.