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China Announces More High-Level Appointments - 2003-03-17


China is announcing more high-level appointments in its leadership transition. Some new ministerial positions have also been created to better manage the country's economic reforms.

China's legislature, the National People's Congress, on Tuesday named more senior officials who will take on such challenges as privatizing the state sector, coping with a growing budget deficit and fixing bad debts in the banking system.

The appointments are among the last in a two-week-long conference that transferred power to Hu Jintao as China's new president and Wen Jiabao as prime minister.

A spokesman for the congress announced on Tuesday the appointment of four vice prime ministers. Among them are Huang Ju, a member of the elite Politburo Standing Committee and an ally of former President Jiang Zemin. Wu Yi, the only woman in the Politburo and former trade minister, also has been promoted to vice prime minister.

Cao Gangchuan, a People's Liberation Army general, was named defense minister. On Sunday, Mr. Cao was also appointed a vice-chair of China's military, which remains under Mr. Jiang's control.

Lu Fuyuan, a senior foreign trade official, was named head of the new commerce ministry, which will be formed by merging the foreign trade ministry with several other economic agencies. That ministry has been created as part of a major overhaul of government agencies aimed at streamlining the country's bureaucracy.

By streamlining, China hopes to better fulfill its obligations to the World Trade Organization and speed up the reform of its inefficient, state-owned enterprises.

Other appointments see former tax commissioner Jin Renqing taking over as finance minister to oversee China's growing budget deficit. Zhou Xiaochuan has been re-appointed governor of China's central bank and will work with a new regulatory commission to rid state-owned banks of hundreds of billions of dollars in bad loans.

Despite the fanfare over China's new generation of leaders, analysts say 76-year-old former President Jiang Zemin is set to maintain strong influence over the country's policies for some time. In addition to staying on as head of the military, Mr. Jiang has also placed many of his allies in senior positions.

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