China's central bank governor, Zhou Xiaochuan, led a group of the country's top financial regulators and banking executives for a rare meet-the-press appearance Sunday night. Speaking on the sidelines of the 18th Communist Party Congress, Mr. Zhou ─ along with China's chief banking regulator, Shang Fulin, and the heads of the country's Big Four banks ─ sought to reassure the world that the country's vast banking system is safe and sound despite rising bad loans, and Beijing will proceed with the kind of financial reforms needed to put the nation on a more sustainable growth path.
But the 64-year-old Mr. Zhou fell short of addressing what many likely saw as the elephant in the room: Will he step down next year when he reaches the retirement age of 65 for a Chinese cabinet minister?
'When you get old, you need to retire,' Mr. Zhou said, while quickly adding that the issue of his retirement should have no bearing on the central bank's monetary policy.
The 65-year-old mark, by the way, is fuzzy at best. If past practice is any guide, he doesn't have to step down immediately on his birthday, and China has carved out plenty of exceptions in the past.
But the scrutiny underscores the attention people put on the job of leading the People's Bank of China, the influence of which is rapidly growing beyond China's borders.
Mr. Zhou, who was appointed to the job in December 2002, is viewed as a key architect of China's financial reforms. He is widely expected to retire at the end of his second and final five-year term next year. The question of his likely successor has aroused keen interest at a time when the PBOC faces a host of challenging tasks from maintaining stability in the world's No. 2 economy to overhauling the country's creaky financial system.
Still, the top central bank job doesn't carry the prestige or influence of the equivalent positions at the Federal Reserve or European Central Bank. Whoever inherits Mr. Zhou's mantel won't have direct responsibility for setting China's monetary policy and will compete with other power institutions such as the National Development and Reform Commission for the ear of the real decision makers.
Among the leading contenders for the top PBOC job is Guo Shuqing, currently chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, according to China watchers. Mr. Guo, dubbed by some people in financial circles a 'scholar-official' like Mr. Zhou, has held positions as heads of China's foreign-exchange regulator, which is part of the PBOC, and of the China Construction Bank Corp. 601939.SH +0.47%, the country's second-largest lender by assets.
Since becoming the country's chief securities regulator late last year, Mr. Guo, 56 years old, has won kudos for taking a slew of measures aimed at bringing order to China's oft-chaotic stock market.
Installing someone like Mr. Guo as the PBOC governor, Chinese analysts say, would indicate Beijing's intention to press ahead with some of the long-awaited financial reforms, such as breaking the state banks' monopoly in the banking sector and relaxing controls over cross-border capital flows.
尽管如此，中国央行行长一职并没有美联储(Federal Reserve)主席或欧洲央行(European Central Bank)行长那样的威望或影响。无论谁接替周小川，都不会直接负责中国货币政策的制定，而是将与国家发改委等其他权力机构竞争向真正的决策者提出建议。
（本文版权归道琼斯公司所有，未经许可不得翻译或转载。）关键词：中国央行 退休 周小川