An Economist and a Gentleman

China Names Economist as Central Bank Adviser,” by Rick Carew. The Wall Street Journal, Beijing, August 14, 2006 (Subscription Required)

I had the rare and humbling honor of sharing a podium with Professor Fan Gang, head of the National Economic Research Institute, at a Singapore confab for Strategic Intelligence about six years ago. He is every bit (and more) the worldly and sophisticated an economist as Steve Green at Standard Chartered gives him credit for being, but he is also extremely engaging, easy to talk to, and as comfortable in a salon full of western businessmen as he is in a hall filled with party cadres.

It is this combination of intellect and social ambidexterity that makes him such a positive addition to the monetary policy committee at the People’s Bank of China. I can only hope this is a stepping stone to a more official position.

If nothing else, China could use his talents to mange the fairly hawkish rhetoric coming out of U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s office. After Snow had backed down a bit, Paulson’s debut in office has been marked by increase demands to adjust the yuan. I think Fan Gang is the kind of economist that can help PBOC and Treasury build a clearer mutual understanding based on the economics rather than the rhetoric, both because he fundamentally agrees with some adjustment, but also because he can clearly and intelligently articulate (in terms U.S. economists would get) why it can’t go any faster.