Xu Shaoshi, a former minister of land and resources and a protégé of former premier Wen Jiabao , has been appointed director of the powerful National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the top economic planning agency.
Xu succeeds Zhang Ping - who was named vice-chairman of the National People's Congress - at the head an expanded NDRC, the biggest beneficiary of the latest cabinet overhaul. That makes him one of the most powerful ministers on the mainland.
Instead of reducing the agency's influence on the market economy, a government revamp will see it take over population policy from the family planning commission and absorb the State Electricity Regulatory Commission into its energy administration.
Xu's appointment as head of the NDRC, nicknamed the "mini-State Council", surprised some sources in the commission, who expected someone with closer ties to new premier Li Keqiang. Xu has worked directly under Wen twice.
"With the NDRC becoming so powerful, Li would want someone close to him to oversee the commission, otherwise he may lose control over it," a source said.
Analysts said the fact Xu had spent five years as land and resources minister since 2007 chimed with the new leadership's vision of driving economic growth through a massive urbanisation programme to resettle 400 million more rural people in cities over the next decade.
In the months leading up to his formal appointment, Li vowed to narrow economic disparities between the city and countryside and better absorb rural migrants into urban areas.
Born in Zhejiang, Xu was sent at 18 to the countryside to live and work in Jilin province. Between 1977 and 1980, Xu studied hydrogeology at Changchun College of Geology, affiliated with the former Ministry of Geology and Mineral Resources. The college is now part of Jilin University.
After graduating, Xu started his political career at the ministry's policy and regulation research department, working as a secretary to the ministerial-level officials and then heading the ministry's general office till 1991.
That period saw his first overlap with Wen, who was trained in geology and engineering was head of the ministry's policy and regulatory research department from 1982 to 1983, then a deputy minister from 1983 to 1985.
Xu worked as a deputy director of the Guangdong provincial department of geology and mineral resources from 1991 to 1993, and was transferred to the State Council's general office.
Xu was appointed deputy secretary general of the State Council in 2000, when Wen served as a vice-premier.