China appoints Lan Foan as new finance ministry party chief

FILE PHOTO: The sign of China's Ministry of Finance is pictured in Beijing

BEIJING (Reuters) -China's Communist Party has appointed Lan Foan as the new finance ministry party chief, the ministry said in a statement on Thursday, a move that puts him on track to become the next finance minister.

Lan will replace Liu Kun in that role, though Liu is still China's finance minister - a post he has held since 2018.

Lan, 61, was previously the party chief of the northern Chinese Shanxi province. His departure from that post was announced by state media earlier on Thursday.

Lan began his career at the finance department of the southern Guangdong province in 1985, after graduating from the Hubei University of Finance and Economics, and became a vice provincial chief in 2016, according to his profile.

He transferred to Shanxi in 2021, as the province's vice party chief, before becoming the party chief in December 2022.

Liu, China's finance minister since 2018, kept his job in a government reshuffle in March despite surpassing the official retirement age of 65 for minister-level officials.

The world's second-largest economy is showing some signs of stabilising after a flurry of modest policy measures, but the outlook is clouded by a property downturn, aging demographics, high debt and geopolitical tensions.

The government is trying to shore up the economy, while tackling a mountain of local government debt.

Some policy advisers have been calling for increased infrastructure spending to support growth, while others have been advocating for structural reforms as the best way to fire up the economy.

"The reshuffling at the Ministry of Finance indicates the policy stance may become more expansionary," said Zhiwei Zhang, chief economist of Pinpoint Asset Management.

"The change of policy may not happen immediately, as we are already close to the end of this fiscal year. Nonetheless this move makes a change of fiscal policy stance more likely next year, which is positive for the economy."

An official at the ministry said he did not have knowledge of the appointment in advance and did not know whether Liu would still attend the International Monetary Fund and World Bank annual meetings in Morocco from Oct. 9-15.

"We just learned about the appointment," said the official on condition of anonymity.

(Reporting by Kevin Yao, Albee Zhang and Ella Cao; Editing by Himani Sarkar, Simon Cameron-Moore and Christina Fincher)