Will China’s top securities honcho get the boot?

It looks like China’s top securities regulator will be one of the first official victims of this summer’s stock market crash.

The word on the street is that the ruling Communist Party’s leadership has been interviewing candidates to replace Xiao Gang as chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSR), unnamed sources told Reuters.

The search is pretty early for a replacement. The 57-year-old Xiao took the job just two years ago and his term runs until the end of 2018. But party leaders are quite upset with the way he handled the boom and bust in Chinese stock prices.

After soaring 152% during the 12 months ended mid June, the market quickly plunged 30% over the three weeks. The CSR responded to the crisis with a series of blunt measures. These clumsy responses included a freeze on initial public offers, a crackdown on short-selling, an instruction to major shareholders to not sell for six months, and allowing up to 45% of listed firms to suspend their shares at one point.

The measures not only did little to stop the crisis, but led investors to questions the government’s competence, as well as its commitment to free-market reforms. Even before the panic, Xiao had been criticized for not halting the market’s earlier excesses.

“He did not handle this crisis well,” Oliver Rui, professor of finance and accounting at China Europe International Business School in Shanghai told Reuters. However, fund managers and a regulatory official say it would be unfair to blame Xiao for the crash and that other state agencies, including the Beijing leadership, also made missteps during the market rescue effort, said the news agency.

Party leaders will discuss the matter at meetings this summer, the sources told Reuters. However, some believe changing the CSR leadership may undermine the government’s attempt to bring stability back to the market.

“The central (leadership) is not very satisfied with Xiao Gang, but maintaining market stability is the top priority,” one source told Reuters.

Huang Qifan, 63, mayor of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, is seen as the favorite to replace Xiao, the sources said. The sources did not know the identity of the other potential candidates. So far, there has been no final decision on whether to replace Xiao.



Categories: Asia Unhedged, China

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