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China names Pan Gongsheng to lead central bank, succeeding Yi Gang

Pan Gongsheng was named China’s central bank governor on July 25 in the widely anticipated final major appointment of the ruling Communist Party’s once-a-decade change of power. Mr. Pan, a deputy central bank governor and veteran of China’s state-owned banking industry, succeeds Yi Gang, an American-trained economist who held the post for five years. The endorsement of Pan’s promotion by the ceremonial legislature, the National People’s Congress, follows other Cabinet-level appointments announced in March.

Key points:

  • The governor of the People’s Bank of China is the most prominent Chinese figure in finance circles but the post’s powers are limited. The bank is controlled by the ruling Communist Party. Mr. Pan, who turns 60 this month, met July 8 with visiting US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, indicating he was being promoted. He was widely assumed to be in line for the job after he was named Communist Party secretary for the central bank.
  • In 2015, Mr. Pan was appointed head of China’s foreign exchange regulator, usually a stepping stone to the top central bank job. Earlier, he was a vice president of the Agricultural Bank of China Ltd, one of the country’s four major commercial lenders.
  • Mr. Pan earned a PhD in economics from Renmin University in Beijing and did research at Cambridge and Harvard Universities.

Career of Pan Gongsheng

Pan is a long-time central banker. He joined the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) in 2012 after previous stints in senior positions at state banks including Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd. and Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. His move to the top of the PBOC signals that Beijing is prioritizing policy continuity at a time when the economic recovery is losing momentum and officials are grappling with various ways to boost confidence.

Since his appointment as party secretary at the PBOC, Pan has held several meetings with visiting central bankers, including South Korea’s Rhee Chang-yong, and attended a central bank governors conference between China, Japan and South Korea in July. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen referred to Pan as “acting governor” when she met with him during her Beijing trip recently.

His appointment marks the first time since 2018 that the top two positions at the PBOC — governor and Communist Party secretary will be held by one person, potentially streamlining decision-making at the very top. Former governor Zhou Xiaochuan held both posts until his departure in 2018 when Yi Gang was named governor and Guo Shuqing held the position of party chief.

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