It has long been convention that an American heads the World Bank, a European runs the IMF and a Japanese sits atop the Asian Development Bank in Manila.
But now that Haruhiko Kuroda will leave his position at the top of the Asian Development Bank to become governor of the Bank of Japan, western central bankers and academics are braced for the Chinese to launch efforts to install one of their own as Mr Kuroda's successor.
"The Chinese have long wanted [control of] the ADB," said Eswar Prasad, a senior professor at Cornell University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Taro Aso, Japanese finance minister, made clear this week that Tokyo planned to fight any attempt by any other country to take the top job at the Manila-based ADB. "Japan will have to carry out election activity in order to secure the position to succeed ADB president Kuroda," he told reporters. Mr Aso also said that Takehiko Nakao, Japan's top currency diplomat, was among the candidates for ADB chief.
Any such Chinese push would be likely to add to tensions between the two countries, already locked in a dispute over control of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. It would also reinforce growing regional anxieties about China's behaviour, with Beijing taking an increasingly prominent role in multilateral institutions in recent years.