Matthew Tsien, 53, a GM China vice president, will succeed Bob Socia, 59, who is retiring on Jan. 1, GM said in a statement.
Tsien will be the third GM China president in 15 months.
Socia became GM China president Oct. 1, 2012, succeeding Kevin Wale, who was in the role since 2005.
The latest move "was definitely part of our plan," a spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal.
Socia planned to retire when Tsien was ready to become president, she said.
Socia and Tsien weren't available for comment.
"When Bob was appointed president of our largest market, our plan was for him to help prepare his successor," GM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson said in a statement. "Matt is now ready to step into the role and we wish Bob the best in his retirement."
Until this year, GM sold more cars in China than any other foreign automaker for eight years running. It now trails Volkswagen AG, based on sales in the first nine months of 2013.
China, the world's No. 1 auto market, accounts for about 30 percent of GM's global sales.
GM has 12 joint ventures in China investing about $11 billion through 2016. GM China has more than 58,000 employees in the country.
Tsien, a 37-year GM veteran, will report to Akerson and become a member of the company's Executive Operations Committee, GM said.