Beijing opts for stability in reshuffle
The Beijing leadership has opted for stability as it puts together a new State Council line-up to be endorsed by the National People's Congress in March.
Executive Vice-Premier Zhu Rongji, who is expected to become premier, will be aided by at least four of the existing Vice-Premiers - Li Lanqing, Wu Bangguo, Qian Qichen and Jiang Chunyun.
Given Mr Li's elevation to the Politburo Standing Committee last week, the former car executive is likely to be given Mr Zhu's title of first Vice-Premier in charge of the economy.
Mr Wu, a protege of President Jiang Zemin, will keep his present portfolio of industry, state-owned enterprises and economic reform.
Mr Jiang Chunyun will remain agriculture supremo.
A Beijing source said Mr Qian will retain the diplomatic portfolio even though he is likely to relinquish the position of Foreign Minister.
Mr Qian will also remain the Politburo member with responsibility for Hong Kong and Macau.
The current Vice-Foreign Minister and a ranking Asia expert, Tang Jiaxuan, is a frontrunner to be promoted foreign minister.
A former ambassador to Japan, Mr Tang, 59, was inducted into the Central Committee at the 15th Party Congress.
It is understood Mr Tang, a native of Jiangsu province, enjoys the support of President Jiang.
'In the summer, the leadership seriously considered the proposal of Qian Qichen replacing Tian Jiyun as the first vice-chairman of the NPC,' the source said.
'However, it was decided at the 15th congress that Tian will stay in his NPC position and that Qian will remain in the State Council.' Foreign Trade Minister Wu Yi - the highest-ranking woman cadre, who was last week made an alternate member of the Politburo - is tipped to be promoted a vice-premier in charge of foreign trade.
Diplomatic sources said more thorough-going changes and a higher degree of rejuvenation would take place at the ministerial and vice-ministerial levels.
An informal transition team under Mr Zhu has shortlisted a number of technocrats in their 40s for positions of vice-ministers or above.
Premier Li Peng is tipped to become head of the NPC even though he and Mr Tian have long belonged to different factions.