The national parliament will open its annual conference on March 5, setting the stage for the most extensive reshuffle of the central government in a decade. The announcement was made by the National People's Congress Standing Committee yesterday after it wound up a week-long session debating several laws and government reports. The Standing Committee also approved several high-level government appointments. According to Xinhua, Zhou Xiaochuan, chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, replaced Dai Xianglong as the new governor of the People's Bank of China - confirming a report by the South China Morning Post on Friday. Mr Dai 'has been appointed a new position in Tianjin', Xinhua said, indirectly confirming that the 58-year-old would become mayor of Tianjin. Mr Dai has been China's banking chief for eight years and is credited with overseeing a soft-landing of the country's overheated economy in the early 1990s. Former Sichuan party secretary Zhou Yongkang was confirmed as Public Security Minister. His predecessor, Jia Chunwang, was named a deputy procurator-general - an interim step paving the way for his confirmation as procurator-general by the full NPC in March. The assignments for Mr Zhou and Mr Jia have been known for more than a month but were only confirmed by the Standing Committee yesterday. Zhang Xuezhong had been relieved of his duty as personnel minister as he had been appointed secretary of Sichuan province, Xinhua said. Other appointments included three new deputies to the Supreme People's Court and Supreme People's Procuratorate. More personnel changes were expected in March, Xinhua said. 'China has decided to convene the first plenum of the 10th National People's Congress on March 5, 2003, in Beijing. The new legislature will elect top state and government leaders,' it said. These leaders include a new president, premier, vice-premiers, state councillors, all cabinet ministers, NPC chairman, president of the Supreme People's Court and the procurator-general. It is widely expected that President Jiang Zemin will hand the presidency to Hu Jintao. Vice-Premier Wen Jiabao is tipped to succeed Zhu Rongji as premier. According to Xinhua, delegates to the conference will also elect the chairman of the Central Military Commission of the People's Republic. Mr Jiang now chairs both the Communist Party's Central Military Commission and the one under the People's Republic. But real power rests with the party's military position. The report by Xinhua is unlikely to quell speculation that Mr Jiang will hand over military power to Mr Hu, who succeeded him as general secretary of the Communist Party last month. However, the proposed agenda yesterday did not include amendments of the constitution as one of its items, indicating that the annual conference next year would be too busy with the election of the new government to be able to discuss proposed changes to the constitution. Since the 16th Communist Party Congress had already decided to absorb private entrepreneurs into the party, speculation was rife the constitution would be amended to enshrine greater protection of private property. In perhaps one of his last addresses as NPC chairman, Li Peng said yesterday that the NPC had done a good job in making laws and supervising the government in the past five years. He said the NPC political system was 'most suitable' for China - an indirect way of saying China would not copy the democratic systems of the West. Mr Li is expected to step down as NPC chief, with Vice-Premier Wu Bangguo tipped to replace him.