China’s Central Banker Leads Push to Overhaul Economy

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Zhou Xiaochuan Is Pressing Top Leaders to Embrace Market-Oriented Reforms at Communist Party Meeting.

Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank of China, has spent years assembling a road map for change.

With mandatory retirement looming and little to lose politically, China’s central banker, Zhou Xiaochuan, used a Communist Party session last November to vent about the lethargic pace of economic reform.

The gray-haired governor of the People’s Bank of China blasted those at the “top” of the government for failing to put forward specific plans to remake the financial sector, according to government officials with knowledge of the meeting. In the audience were the party officials in charge of finance and commerce.

One year later, Mr. Zhou still has his job and may be more powerful than ever. In March, when he hit the retirement age of 65, China’s new leaders unexpectedly brought him back for a third five-year term. As new Communist Party chief Xi Jinping signed off on the reappointment, he called Mr. Zhou “a talent who can be counted on,” recalls an official involved in the party’s staffing decisions.

Mr. Zhou’s reappointment signals that party leaders are likely to embrace at least some market-oriented reforms in an economic plan due to be released at a meeting of senior party officials scheduled to begin on Saturday.

The central banker has long championed a more consumer-based economy in which ordinary people have more money to spend and more loans are available to private firms rather than state-owned behemoths. To that end, his priorities include creating deposit insurance for banks, making higher interest rates available to depositors, creating more privately owned banks and opening China more to foreign investors.

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