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China Investment Corp. Chairman May Be Stepping Down to Rise Higher

Ding Xuedong’s resignation from the Chinese sovereign wealth fund may signal a promotion, taking him closer to President Xi Jinping’s inner circle.

  • Allen T. Cheng

Ding Xuedong, chairman and CEO of Chinese sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp. (CIC), has stepped down, according to Beijing-based Caixin Media Co., citing people with knowledge of the matter.

Executives at China’s $810 billion sovereign wealth fund refused to confirm the February 24 report, but observers who closely follow Chinese media know that Caixin has contacts who are close to President Xi Jinping’s inner circle. Although Ding’s future plans are unclear, sources say that he did such a good job restructuring CIC that he is probably in line for a promotion tied to government.

Ding’s resignation ahead of the National People’s Congress, which is scheduled to start on March 5, is an indication that he is in line to be promoted to a more senior position, says a senior government adviser in Beijing, who asked not to be identified by name because he is not authorized to comment. “It’s not yet clear what position Ding will be promoted into, but his promotion is a sure thing,” the adviser says, adding that Ding, who has had a high profile at CIC, may go into a “more powerful” position that is more “behind the scenes but closer to the inner circle of President Xi’s advisers.”

Born in 1960 in the eastern province of Jiangsu, Ding has spent most of his career as a senior official with the Ministry of Finance. He became a department director at the ministry in 1994 and was promoted to vice minister at 48. As the youngest vice minister of finance at the time, his duties included putting forward fiscal policy and overseeing the agricultural sector and the China Appraisal Society, an organization under the ministry. In 2010 he became the youngest-ever deputy secretary-general of the State Council, the superministry that runs the Chinese government’s daily operations, a post he held until he was appointed CIC chairman in July 2013, succeeding Lou Jiwei, who was promoted to finance minister a few months earlier.

During Ding’s tenure at CIC, he oversaw an anticorruption campaign, and in January 2015 established CIC Capital, a subsidiary mandated to make foreign direct and private equity investments. He also oversaw the relocation of CIC’s North American offices from Toronto to New York in December 2015 and launched an in-house research department that advised on a wide range of offshore deals.

Ding obtained a master’s degree in economics in 1985 from Zhongnan University of Finance and Economics, currently known as Zhongnan University of Economics and Law. In 1997 he earned a doctorate degree in economics from the Chinese Academy of Fiscal Sciences, a university affiliated with the Finance Ministry.

Since October 2014, Ding also concurrently served as chairman of China International Capital Corp., one of the country’s leading investment banks, which he helped succeed in an initial public offering in Hong Kong in late 2015. Ding’s promotion up the ranks would mean that CICC will have to scramble in the months ahead to find a replacement who has as much gravitas.