Wang Qishan

Leaders settle on top roles in State Council

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 February, 2008, 12:00am

The mainland leadership has reached broad consensus over the leading positions in Premier Wen Jiabao's State Council for his second five-year term, with Wang Qishan taking over the expanded portfolios of financial affairs, foreign trade and investment.

The new State Council will be sworn in immediately after the National People's Congress rubber-stamps the personnel changes at its annual plenary session, which starts on March 5.

Except for Premier Wen and Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu , who will continue to oversee agriculture, all the leading officials, including vice-premiers, will be new faces.

The responsibilities and portfolios of officials are also expected to be redistributed and redeployed.

Sources said Li Keqiang , a protege of President Hu Jintao and tipped to become the next premier in 2013, would become executive vice-premier. He will focus on macroeconomic issues by overseeing the Ministry of Finance and the National Development and Reform Commission.

Mr Wang, who is known as a trouble shooter for his leadership skills and experience in the banking sector, will assume responsibility for financial affairs as well as foreign trade and investment, which are currently managed by Wu Yi, who will retire next month.

This will make Mr Wang the principal official in dealings with Washington over thorny trade and currency issues in the next five years.

Mr Wang will also be the key person the Hong Kong government should focus on when lobbying for closer integration with the mainland economy.

To ensure financial stability, the top leaders have decided not to reshuffle the leadership at the People's Bank of China or the regulators of the securities, banking and insurance sectors. There had been intense speculation that central banker Zhou Xiaochuan would be transferred to become party secretary of the China Academy of Social Sciences, a leading government think-tank. His transfer would have almost certainly triggered a reshuffle of the leadership at the three regulators.

Sources said Zhang Dejiang , who was previously rumoured to be taking over Ms Wu's portfolio of trade and investment, would in fact be responsible for industries and transport.

The central government is considering enhancing its regulation of industrial development by creating a Ministry of Industries and Energy and merging the ministries of aviation, railways, and communications into a super transport ministry.

Liu Yandong , a Hu ally, is expected to fill the newly created role of fifth vice-premier, covering education and sports.