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Hu Jintao, President of China

Monday 17 January 2011 - by Will Henley


Hu Jintao, President of China
The Paramount Leader of the People's Republic of China retains an iron grip on policy and has been at the forefront of demanding changes to the international financial system. He comes seventh in the GFS Power 50.

As China's economy surges and the US looks to be eclipsed in coming decades, Western leaders have been beating a path to the Chinese President to establish stronger ties with the waking giant.

This only makes Hu's influence all the greater and his sign-off essential to international regulatory reforms. Although much of financial policy is formulated by Vice Premiers Li Keqiang and Wang Qishan, Jintao exercises authority over final decisions.

China's financial institutions have seen a fifth-fold increase in the value of their assets in the past year and have improved their capital adequacy ratios. In step with the mood in Europe and beyond, the Chinese leader has followed the fashion for pushing for improved supervision and regulation of credit rating agencies and shadow banking. Chinese police authorities meanwhile have clamped down on underground unlicensed banks, announcing last November they had shut down 500 banks since 2002.

The 68-year-old has heartily backed quota and voting reforms to the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and claimed at the G20 in South Korea that emerging economies should take up more mid-level and senior management positions. The former party chief for Tibet also successfully argued that the IMF should beef up its surveillance and monitoring of capital flows to restrain their "destructive" impact on emerging economies.

The President has raised the temperature on the future of the dollar by indicating he would prefer the IMF's special drawing rights or renminbi to act as the world's reserve currency in the future. Much to the chagrin of the US, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in particular, the Chinese President has however stubbornly refused to address concerns over its currency valuation, which many countries say unfairly boosts Chinese exports.


Bejing is the largest holder of US Treasuries in the world - with around $900bn in its coffers - and the constant threat for US officials is that Hu could decide to dump the bonds and bring prices plummeting downward. This makes Hu's evident frustration at the US Federal Reserve's decision to extend its quantitative easing (QEII) programme all the more risky for America. Expect currency and QE tensions to continue to simmer through 2011 and beyond.

The son of a tea trader who was denounced during the Cultural Revolution, Hu has consolidated his power at the top of China since becoming General Secretary of the Communist Party of China in 2002 and President of the party and chairman of the Central Military Commission. Speculation however is already rife over who will replace him (Vice Premier Li Keqiang is a favourite) and the whispers are that he could seek retirement within the next two to five years.

Learn more about the GFS Power 50, a countdown of the most influential people in worldwide financial regulation in 2010.



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