The confirmation that Liu Yandong, one of President Hu Jintao's most trusted allies and a child of a party veteran, has been appointed a state councillor instead of a much more powerful vice-premier has come as a surprise, analysts have said.
The speculation was rife in the run-up to the National People's Congress that Ms Liu, 62, a new Politburo member, would head a newly created fifth vice-premier slot responsible for education and medical care because of her strong political ties to Mr Hu.
She is one of the three women in Premier Wen Jiabao's new cabinet.
She has some big shoes to fill. Wu Yi, the outgoing highest-ranking woman in Mr Wen's previous cabinet, was once described by US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson as 'a force of nature'.
At 69, the 'Iron Lady' of Chinese politics has made it clear she will opt for a quiet life after retiring.
Ms Liu at least appears to be as amiable as Ms Wu is feisty, and the cabinet portfolios, covering culture, education and sports, seem to suit her.
Ms Liu is also said to be assisting Politburo Standing Committee member and vice-president Xi Jinping in handling Hong Kong and Macau affairs.
The other two women cabinet members are Justice Minister Wu Aiying and Minister of Supervision Ma Wen .