(Bloomberg) — Xi Jinping made his first known visit to the nation’s central bank since he became Chinese president a decade ago, according to people familiar with the matter, underscoring the government’s increased focus on shoring up the economy and financial markets.
Xi, along with vice premier He Lifeng and other government officials, visited the People’s Bank of China and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange in Beijing on Tuesday afternoon, said the people, asking not to be identified discussing private information. The vice premier also visited the nation’s sovereign wealth fund, the people added.
While details of the visits weren’t immediately clear, Xi’s movements are closely monitored by investors for potential policy signals. The most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong has never appeared at the PBOC, according to public records, and his visit would highlight recent Communist Party rhetoric on its “centralized and unified” leadership over the financial industry. Previous such inspections were often led by the nation’s premiers or their deputies.
Xi’s presence reinforces a string of recent moves by the government to boost growth and stabilize markets. It could help ease concerns among some investors that the president had been neglecting the economy amid a purge of senior ministers and a volatile relationship with the US.
His visit to the foreign exchange regulator is partly aimed at better understanding China’s $3 trillion of foreign-exchange reserves, one of the people said. It comes as state leaders, regulators and top bankers are set to gather at a closed-door financial policy meeting early next week to set medium-term priorities for the $61 trillion industry and prevent risks.
The PBOC and China Investment Corp. didn’t immediately respond to requests for comments.
Authorities have resorted to a battery of measures this year to address the nation’s faltering markets, an exodus of foreign funds, as well as worsening woes at the property sector and local government financing vehicles. While the economy has showed some signs of improvement, markets have continued to suffer as investor confidence has plummeted. More recently raids on foreign consulting firms and tightening of data security have further dented prospects.
Xi’s latest visit may prompt officials to further tap into their policy toolboxes to shore up the world’s second-largest economy and safeguard financial stability. Policymakers have so far refrained from using massive stimulus and more forceful direct intervention in the markets.
Central Huijin Investment Ltd., a unit of the $1.4 trillion wealth fund CIC, on Monday bought an undisclosed amount of exchange-traded funds and vowed to keep increasing its holdings in the latest attempt to boost the country’s slumping stock market. Earlier this month, Huijin bought shares in China’s largest state banks.
China watchers are counting on upcoming events including the politburo meeting and Third Plenum of the Communist Party, and a potential meeting between Xi and US President Joe Biden at the APEC Summit next month for policy catalysts.