At an official Chinese New Year's party earlier this year, a former bond trader named Zhu Changhong was hailed for the smart choices he made investing the world's largest stash of cash: China's $3.5 trillion in foreign reserves.
Mr. Zhu is a key figure in the allocation of trillions of dollars at a time when Europe still is looking for sources of capital and developing countries worry that the resources boom shows signs of ebbing. But despite being charged with directing China's efforts to diversify its foreign reserves and earn decent returns, little is known about Mr. Zhu; Chinese media call him "invisible."
A 43-year-old former physicist, Mr. Zhu has made one surprising turn after another in his career. At 20 years old, he moved from impoverished Anhui province to the University of Chicago to study quantum physics, but he then chucked a promising academic career to become a bond trader.
Mr. Zhu's transformation into investment guru still surprises some old acquaintances. His 1995 dissertation from the University of Chicago, "Inter-Landau Level Polarization and Wigner Crystal," examined circumstances where electrons strongly interfere and become entangled with one another, a hot area in physics now that may someday lead to breakthroughs in quantum computing.
"Those with an entrepreneurial drive went to Wall Street," said physicist Paul Wiegmann, Mr. Zhu's thesis adviser. He said he thought the fast pace of a trader fit his former student, who finished his dissertation in two years, half the usual time.
Oznake: J.Z., raznarije