The government has engineered calm and stability in China’s economy and markets leading up to a major leadership shuffle, due to take place next month. As such, Beijing has been mum on major reform plans all year.
President Xi Jinping is sailing into his second term in power, and “the presumption here is that what happened in the first five years was all politics,” said Damien Ma, a fellow at think tank Paulson Institute.
He said he expects to see “more doubling down on reforms, and if the reforms go down to deleveraging, fixing the state sector in a more meaningful way, you’re not going to get amazing growth out of that.”
When it comes to pushing ideas through, Jiang would “be less independent — he’s a [Communist] Party man through and through — and someone like Guo Shuqing seems a little bit more willing to carve out a space to operate,” Polk said.
Because of Jiang’s political clout, “he could have a really strong voice, but there’s a chance he just falls in line and diminishes the PBOC’s relative autonomy,” he added.
Guo, on the other hand, speaks English, and is more well-known internationally, and that’s important if China is seeking a greater role on the world stage. If Guo gets the job, it would likely be “viewed as a market positive — Guo is more of a known quantity, as he’s been in the finance world a while,” said Ma.
The perfect candidate will need to have access and credibility with Xi, Brown said, adding that the new governor will also need to be able to “meet finance ministers, bankers from elsewhere, like the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve, and be able to talk the same language.”
Experts are divided on whether it even matters who gets the job: Against constantly shifting political winds and a lack of transparency in government, it’s hard to really tell how much power the governor can wield when it comes to setting policy.
And it’s policy that generally drives how investors view Chinese markets, said an employee at one of China’s state-owned securities firms, who requested anonymity given the sensitive nature of the topic.
“China is still a top-down place,” he said. “The guy who ends up in that seat will be someone who [Xi] pretty much trusts, and someone pretty loyal to him.”