Ex-ambassador Wang Yi named vice-minister
China's former ambassador to Japan, Wang Yi , was formally appointed a vice-foreign minister yesterday in the latest reshuffle of government positions in the run-up to the Communist Party's 17th National Party Congress next month.
Political analysts suggested that the recent appointments of a number of vice-ministers - who are expected to take over their respective ministries eventually - were part of the usual arrangements ahead of the crucial party congress, when a reshuffle of the nation's key leadership is expected.
Mr Wang, 54, had been China's ambassador to Japan since September 2004.
His post will be taken over by Assistant Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai .
It is believed that Mr Wang's appointment, which was reported in a brief statement on the State Council's website, has made him a strong candidate to take over from Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi .
'The recent series of appointments of vice-ministers reflect some of the reshuffles in government positions at the coming party congress,' said Liu Xutao, professor of public policy at the National School of Administration.
Professor Liu said it was the party leaders' usual practice to identify candidates for ministerial posts and appoint them to assume the posts of vice-ministers in the run-up to the party congress.
Although it was highly unlikely there would be any substantial changes after the congress, he said some changes were still possible.
'It's because after the 17th party congress, there would still be a half-year gap before the annual National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference meetings [in March], so changes are possible,' he said.
While the State Council has the power to appoint vice-ministers, ministerial appointments have to be voted on by the NPC during its annual session.
Mao Shoulong , a political scientist at Beijing's Renmin University, said it was unlikely candidates for ministerial posts would fail to win endorsement by the NPC delegates.
Former Shanxi governor Yu Youjun became the Ministry of Culture's party chief and its vice-minister earlier this month in an apparent move to pave his way to succeed Minister of Culture Sun Jiazheng .
And last month, Jiang Weixin , a former deputy minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, was appointed party secretary and a vice-minister of the Ministry of Construction, a position which is widely seen as a precursor to him replacing 64-year-old incumbent minister Wang Guangtao - who will reach the mandatory retirement age for senior cadres.