Promotion to trade office not true - Li

CHINA's Minister for Foreign Economic Relations and Trade, Mr Li Lanqing, yesterday denied reports he would soon resign from his job to take over control of the Government's economic policy super-agency, the Economic and Trade Office (ETO) from Vice-Premier, Mr Zhu Rongji.

''I am not prepared to resign my post. At present, I am still doing my very best at my job and go to the office at 8 am each morning,'' Mr Li told journalists at a reception in Beijing's Great Hall of the People last night.

It had been reported that Mr Zhu would soon vacate his seat as head of the ETO but maintain the overall economic policy portfolio in the politburo standing committee.

Mr Li, it was said, would be made director of the ETO and be promoted to vice-premier after the Lunar New Year and that his deputy at the ministry, Ms Wu Yi, would take over as minister.

Ms Wu, who led China's negotiations with the United States on the protection of intellectual property rights, is widely seen as a rising star in government circles and is believed to have the strong backing of President Mr Yang Shangkun.

Mr Li, who was promoted to the politburo at the Communist Party's 14th Congress in October, also played down suggestions that President Yang's half brother, General Yang Baibing, had been boycotting politburo meetings in protest at his dismissal from allmilitary posts within the party hierarchy.


''As a member of the politburo, I naturally have attended each and every meeting. When I attended politburo sessions, I also met with Mr Yang Baibing on each occasion. Mr Yang is after all also a member of this body,'' Mr Li said.

The minister declined to say however what portfolio within the politburo General Yang had been given.

It had been reported that General Yang's appointment to the politburo was simply a ''consolation prize'' to compensate for his removal from the central military commission and that he had no specific portfolio.

Sources on the conservative wing of the party stress, however, that both General Yang and the President still wield considerable power both within the military and the party.