Wang Min tipped to get commerce portfolio

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 October, 2007, 12:00am

Jilin party chief Wang Min is strongly tipped to succeed Bo Xilai as minister of commerce under sweeping changes to the leadership team responsible for managing the mainland's international trade and economic relations.

The reshuffle would see Mr Bo admitted to the Politburo, although it remains to be seen whether he would be confirmed as the new party boss of Chongqing municipality , sources said.

Vice-Premier Wu Yi will leave her post as trade policymaker and chief troubleshooter to become a vice-chairman of the National People's Congress, while Vice-Minister of Commerce Ma Xiuhong will become ambassador to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva, according to the sources.

Mr Wang's elevation to the position of trade minister marks a swift ascent for the former engineering professor, who took up the reins as party secretary of the northeastern province of Jilin only last year.

The Anhui native, 57, is best remembered for his 10-year stint in Jiangsu province , where he first served as provincial vice-governor and then as party boss of Suzhou , as well as being deputy president of Nanjing Aeronautics and Astronautics University.

'Wang Min is currently party secretary in one of the more backward provinces, but he has considerable international experience from his period as deputy governor of Jiangsu province, where he was highly regarded,' said Shi Yinhong , a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing. 'He is very smart.'

Under Mr Wang, Suzhou overtook Shanghai as the mainland's top place for foreign direct investment, attracting US$4.8 billion in 2003.

'He did an excellent job as party secretary in Suzhou,' said Zhao Xijun , a professor of finance at Renmin University. Although Mr Wang's name has not previously been linked with the top post at the Ministry of Commerce, his experience in dealing with foreign investors and promoting foreign trade make him a natural choice for the minister's position.

'Wang Min's experience of working in Jiangsu, one of the most economically advanced and open provinces, would be a key reason for this promotion,' Professor Shi said.

As minister of commerce, Mr Wang would be responsible for upholding the mainland's trading interests and ensuring that the country meets its WTO obligations.

The world's second largest exporter, China is expected to pip Germany for the top spot next year.

Mr Wang will have a difficult task taking over from Bo Xilai, who managed to combine an urbane persona with a reputation for being a tough negotiator in international trade talks - something to which EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, in particular, can testify.

Wu Yi's departure from frontline politics to semi-retirement will also be a considerable loss to the administration of President and party General Secretary Hu Jintao .