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China taps central bank chief, finance minister to stay

China has kept its central bank governor and finance minister in their posts in an unexpected move at the annual session of the rubber-stamp parliament, during which they had been expected to be replaced.

President Xi Jinping, who has been installing allies in key roles amid a sweeping government reshuffle as he begins a third five-year term, opted for a measure of continuity in core policymaking positions as the world's second-largest economy faces stiff challenges at home and abroad.

On Sunday, Yi Gang, 65, was approved by the National People's Congress to remain governor of the People's Bank of China (PBOC) and Liu Kun, 66, to stay on as finance minister.

"The government sent a positive signal to the market by keeping these senior financial experts in the cabinet," Pinpoint Asset Management chief economist Zhang Zhiwei said.

"The global economic outlook is challenging. Continuity and stability in the leadership of economic and financial affairs are helpful to boost market confidence."

The biggest change at the parliament session was the promotion on Saturday of Li Qiang, 63, a longtime Xi confidant, to premier.

The former Shanghai Communist Party boss takes a role charged with managing the economy, replacing Li Keqiang, 67, who stepped down after two five-year terms.

The United States-educated central bank chief Yi, appointed PBOC governor in 2018, had widely been expected to retire after being left off the ruling Communist Party's Central Committee during the party's once-in-five-years congress in October.

Sources had told Reuters last month that Zhu Hexin, chairman of state-run financial conglomerate CITIC Group Corp, was likely to succeed Yi as head of the central bank.

The appointments "indicate that the government put professionalism, management and the art of fine-tuning on the front burner when it comes to picking the central bank governor and finance minister, as positions at the helm of core economic departments need tremendous professional skill", economist Sun Fei said.

As expected, Wang Wentao stays on as commerce minister.

Zheng Shanjie, governor and deputy party secretary of Zhejiang province, was approved to take over as head of the National Development and Reform Commission, the powerful state planner.