'Mr. Renminbi': An interview with former PBOC governor Zhou Xiaochuan
Updated 21:56, 15-Mar-2019
Juliet Mann and Linh Nguyen

Juliet Mann sat down with the former Governor of the People's Bank of China, Zhou Xiaochuan, to get his take on the US-China trade negotiations, Brexit and his lifetime achievement award.

On a whistle-stop trip to London for a keynote lecture, a panel discussion, and an awards ceremony, Zhou "Mr. Renminbi" Xiaochuan took time out to give CGTN his perspective on the challenges and opportunities in global markets.

Zhou is best known for his 15 years as the governor of China's central bank. In 2018 he stepped down but is still regarded as a sage economic thinker with a deep understanding of China's challenges and the international market.

It's always tricky to get a former central banker to talk candidly about monetary policy, but with a twinkle in his eye, he gave us a hint of what goes on behind the scenes. 

The bold reformer's main message was one of compromise and collaboration "to protect each other and the global economy." When it came to trade and the United States he built on that theme, describing the U.S., at times, as being protectionist at the expense of global markets.

Zhou Xiaochuan, former governor of the People's Bank of China (R), receives an interview with CGTN Europe. /CGTN Photo

Zhou Xiaochuan, former governor of the People's Bank of China (R), receives an interview with CGTN Europe. /CGTN Photo

"It is understandable that if some economies suffer [an] imbalance, they will like to find ways to correct that but through observation of the trade conflict, the tariff effect, I believe people can gradually realize how [in] today's global economy, we very much rely on each other - we are on the same boat."

On Tuesday he warned China's debt levels are too high but said the country is taking steps to try to deleverage the economy. He also said China would continue its financial sector reform and open up its markets to foreign investors, helped in part by the increasing internationalization of the Chinese currency, the Yuan, also known as Renminbi.

So we quizzed him further: what does he make of Brexit and how that might affect Britain's reputation in financial circles and beyond? In his answer, we caught a glimpse of mischief as he explained that no one is certain. He didn't limit that thought to the public and the politicians as he explained the financial institutions are equally divided on the potential outcome. 

He was quick to remind us of the similarities between economics and politics, describing the global central banking community as a family network that sometimes bickers but has shared values and goals.

Zhou has been awarded the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Central Banker magazine. He played it down, saying it was very much a team effort.

"The achievement is not only of me but a good recognition of the Chinese economy."

Zhou Xiaochuan steered the monetary policy of an economy going through a fast-paced structural transformation. He helped the central government stabilize the value of the Yuan, safeguard the confidence of the global market, and win respect from the banking communities around the world. 

And despite all that, he is still modest.