Li Bin brings rich experience to health and family planning commission

Former Anhui governor has rich background in both health and national family planning affairs

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 March, 2013, 6:38am

Minister in charge of the newly established Health and Family Planning Commission Li Bin yesterday said she was well aware of the importance of her job, but shed little light on how she was going to address the two tricky issues of health-care reform and the controversial birth control policies.

"We always bless people with the blessings that we wish everybody: health and a happy family. You can tell the weight of healthcare and family in people's hearts," Li said on the sidelines of the NPC yesterday after her appointment was announced.

"We have to take our job seriously … to deepen medical and health-care reform and do a good job with the family planning work."

With her rich background in both health and national family planning affairs, it came as little surprise that the former Anhui governor was selected as head of a newly created commission overseeing both sectors.

The appointment makes Li, 58, the fourth female minister of public health, following Li Dequan, Liu Xiangping and Wu Yi.

She worked in the National Population and Family Planning Commission for more than four years, first as a deputy and then as director, until she was named governor of Anhui in 2011. Prior to that, Li Bin was in charge of health, social security and labour in her six years as deputy governor of Jilin , from 2001 to 2007.

Ahead of Li's appointment, reporters at the Great Hall of the People asked former health minister Dr Chen Zhu nearly two weeks ago to comment on rumours that Li would be named to the post. "The central government has a sharp eye for picking the most able person," he said.

Chen, who was elected as chairman of the Chinese Peasant's and Worker's Democratic Party in December, was elected on Thursday by the National People's Congress as its vice-chairman, filling a vacancy left by the party's former chairman, Sang Guowei .

About a year ago, Chen spoke highly of Li Bin, offering praise for her health-care initiatives in Anhui, as well as for the important role the province has been playing in national medical reform efforts. Anhui is the only province that has two cities out of 17 in the whole country to pilot difficult public hospital reforms.

Anhui has also gained attention for its reform of the essential-drugs system, as well as for increasing health care coverage.

Li, from Fushun in Liaoning , spent more than three decades of her political career in Jilin. After starting out as a teacher at the Changchun Institute of Education in 1974, Li went on to become a junior party official in charge of propaganda in Changchun .

She first served as a provincial-level official in 1994, as deputy director of Jilin's Planning Commission. Li was named an assistant governor of Jilin six years later and promoted to deputy governor in 2001.

With her doctoral degree in economics, Li asked the province's statistics department to take measures to prevent the filing of fake figures or reports. Her pragmatic approach to politics also saw her make several inspection visits to various welfare projects, such as low-income housing developments, in rural areas.

After being transferred to the National Population and Family Planning Commission in 2007, Li went to several provinces, including Xinjiang and Guangdong, to conduct research, and she spoke openly about problems such as the gender imbalance favouring males, and the rapidly ageing society.

A fellow official in Anhui also praised Li for her charisma and people skills, which she used to "bring officials together to achieve a common goal".

Journalists described Li as "soft-spoken" and "very elegant".

Additional Reporting by Li Jing