International economics graduate named deputy managing director of the IMF

zhang tao
Zhang Tao, Ph.D. graduate in international economics, is the incoming deputy managing director of the IMF. (Photo by IMF)

Zhang Tao, who received his masters and Ph.D. degrees in international economics from UC Santa Cruz, has been appointed deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

Zhang will assume the post Aug. 22, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said. Zhang “brings a strong combination of international economic expertise, public sector policymaking, and diplomatic skills. He also has extensive experience with international financial institutions, excellent communication and negotiating skills, and a superb knowledge of IMF policies and procedures,” Lagarde said in a statement.

The IMF, based in Washington, D.C., is made up of 189 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation. Its primary purpose is to ensure the stability of the international monetary system.

Two UCSC grads on IMF board

Zhang is no stranger to the IMF. He served on the organization’s executive board from September 2011 until early 2015. In 2014, he was one of two UC Santa Cruz international economics graduates among the 24 IMF executive directors. Zhang represented China. The other UCSC grad, Alvaro Rojas, who earned his Ph.D. in international economics in 2004, represented Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.

“I had the honor of working with Tao Zhang at the IMF executive board, where I witnessed his thorough contributions to technical discussions as well has his diplomatic skills on making the views of China well known,” said Rojas, currently a senior external consultant for the Inter-American Development Bank. “As the representative of China, the second largest economy in the world, he was always well aware of the growing importance of representing the views of his country.”

Rojas credited UC Santa Cruz’s graduate program for preparing students for top-level careers in international economics. “The fact that two UCSC graduates of the Ph.D. program in international economics coincided as executive directors is proof of the success the program had in terms of preparing its graduate students to assume the highest responsibilities representing our countries or regions at international organizations, such as the IMF,” Rojas said.

Program's global reach

“It is also a proof of the global reach the Ph.D. program has had throughout the years, as we had the chance to study as foreign students from China and, in my case, from Chile. As a UCSC graduate, I will always feel part of the UCSC community.”  

Another UCSC international economics Ph.D. graduate, Andréa Maechler, who has also worked with the IMF, currently sits on the governing board of Switzerland’s national bank, the first woman to do so.

Zhang’s appointment was widely anticipated when he was named deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China in May. Zhang becomes the second Chinese national to hold the deputy managing director’s post, following his predecessor Zhu Min, who steps down later this month.  

Zhang received his Ph.D. degree in December 1995. His research focused on federalism in China, and his dissertation was titled “Fiscal Decentralization, Public Spending and Economic Growth: the Experience in the Post-Reform China.”

Chinese media reported Zhang has been a strong force behind China's successful push to include the Chinese yuan in the IMF's Special Drawing Rights currency basket. Zhang is also known for helping China win a greater share of voting rights in the IMF.

Last year, Zhang helped write China's first-ever policy on regulating the online finance industry–a policy implemented last July by the central bank and nine other central government departments. The policy has served as a framework for regulating online payment, peer-to-peer lending, and crowdfunding services.

Before his most recent appointment, Zhang served as director general of the Legal Affairs Department at the People's Bank of China. Before joining the People’s Bank in 2004 he held positions at the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank as a senior economist.