The United States has repeatedly referred to a senior Chinese central banker as the head or acting head of the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) in recent days, appearing to confirm his expected elevation to the top post.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen referred to PBOC Deputy Governor Pan Gongsheng, whom she meet during a series of meetings with top Chinese officials, as the head of the central bank during a press conference ending her visit to Beijing on Sunday.
The ruling Communist Party named Pan the PBOC party chief on July 1, a move that two policy sources said put him in position to succeed Yi Gang as central bank governor for the world’s second-biggest economy, a position nominated by the government.
The Treasury Department was already referring to Pan as central bank head after Yellen met him on Friday. She also met Yi and other officials including Premier Li Qiang, during her four-day visit.
Asked to clarify her remarks on Sunday, Yellen said: “It’s up to the Chinese side to decide and to announce their decision, but I did meet with the acting governor of the PBOC at this point, and we had very good discussions.”
The PBOC and China’s State Council Information Office, which handles media queries on behalf of the government, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday.
Pan, 60, has been deputy governor since 2012 and is China’s top foreign exchange regulator. The expected elevation of the financial technocrat, who has done research at Cambridge and Harvard universities, points to growing concerns within the country’s leadership over systemic risks in its sprawling financial sector, policy insiders and analysts say.
Governor Yi has been widely expected to retire since being left off the ruling Communist Party’s Central Committee during the party’s once-in-five-years congress in October.
The apparent leadership shift comes as expectations rise for the authorities to take steps to boost the flagging economy. A slowdown is deepening and spreading with the waning of a burst of activity that followed the lifting of strict COVID-19 controls.
Yellen emphasized the importance of the U.S. and China cooperating on global challenges in her meeting with Pan, during a trip aimed at improving communications between two sides at odds over issues including trade and security.