After three months of searching, China may have finally suckered someone into running its $500 billion sovereign wealth fund. As we’ve reported before, the position isn’t a coveted one thanks to some potentially disastrous investments. According to reports, officials are expected to name Ding Xuedong, currently deputy secretary general of the State Council, to lead China Investment Corp (CIC). Reuters reports that the announcement was already made this afternoon within the fund. (Update July 5: China publicly announced Ding’s appointment.)
How Ding got roped into a post that other candidates have squirmed out of (paywall) isn’t clear. Ding, 53, hails from Changzhou city, in the southern province of Jiangsu. A Phd in economics, he’s been a party member since the 1980s. In addition to serving as vice minister of China’s ministry of finance, he worked in the government’s education, disaster relief and agriculture departments. If confirmed, his appointment will mark one of the last high-level posts in China’s leadership transition this year.
The goal of the CIC, founded with much fanfare in 2007, is to diversify China’s stockpile of foreign exchange reserves away from US treasury bonds and into things like commodities and private equity. But CIC’s $3 billion investment in Blackstone Group and $1.8 billion investment in Morgan Stanley, moves scorned by the Chinese public, have both lost money.
There are other reasons why heading up the world’s fifth-largest sovereign wealth fund may be losing its luster. For the past five years, investments by another fund started by China’s central bank have been treading into the same areas (paywall) covered by CIC. Ding’s likely next job is starting to look less important.