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Savvy team for charm offensive

Friday, March 08, 2013

Beijing will likely appoint savvy international dealmakers to run its giant sovereign wealth fund and Commerce Ministry, in a soft-power push to soothe fears over a planned spending spree to boost its ownership of strategic global assets.

Oxford-educated securities regulator Guo Shuqing is tipped to take the helm at the US$482 billion (HK$3.8 trillion) state investment vehicle, China Investment Corp, and chief national trade representative Gao Hucheng is seen running the Commerce Ministry, two sources with leadership ties said.

The appointment of seasoned, English-speaking financial negotiators to run the two agencies is a sign that new mainland leaders would make commercial logic a major thrust of the push for market access that Beijing needs for planned acquisitions of US$560 billion of overseas assets by end-2015.

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"The next government will pay more attention to trade policy and investment policy and the direction will be more open," said Tu Xinquan, China Institute of WTO Studies director at the International Business and Economics University in Beijing.

Sources with ties to the leadership and officials at top ministerial think-tanks say such appointments fit with the overall external thrust of the new leadership.

"Here you have people who know the global system, and this is about China becoming much more active in it," Indiana University Chinese affairs expert Scott Kennedy said.

Guo climbed to the top of the financial ranks by combining a balanced approach to risk with gradual reform. If he takes the CIC job, he would replace Lou Jiwei, 62, tipped for finance minister, the sources said. Insurance regulator Xiang Junbo, 56, is the front-runner to succeed Guo as securities regulator.

REUTERS


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