Chinese congress names Xi associates to fill top economic jobs

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 February, 2017, 9:17pm
UPDATED : Friday, 24 February, 2017, 9:17pm

Three officials who were either protegees of Chinese President Xi Jinping or a top aide of a close ally, have been named ministers.

The ministers were appointed on Friday as personnel in the highest echelons of government, the Communist Party and the military continue to be reshuffled ahead of the party’s five-yearly national congress late this year.

The National People’s Congress appointed He Lifeng, 62, who worked under Xi in Fujian province, as director of the National Development and Reform Commission, Xinhua reported, confirming an earlier report by the South China Morning Post.

The commission is known as the mini cabinet because of its extensive powers, from setting petrol prices to approving airport construction.

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Zhong Shan, a former deputy to Xi in Zhejiang province, was named minister of commerce. Zhong, 62, was Zhejiang’s deputy governor under Xi for four years more than a decade ago.

Zhang Jun, a deputy of the party’s anti-corruption watchdog, was appointed minister of justice. Zhang, 61, has worked under the party’s anti-graft chief Wang Qishan since 2012, and was a deputy director of the Supreme People’s Court before 2012.

Like Xi’s associates, Wang’s proteges have grown in influence in the government and the party. Zhang’s appointment brings to four the number of serving ministers who have worked under Wang, an official widely seen as a close ally of Xi.

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Official provincial media also reported the Shandong governor Guo Shuqing had stepped down from his provincial party posts, backing up mainland media reports of his imminent return to the national capital to head the country’s banking regulator.

In addition, the NPC confirmed that former Chongqing mayor Huang Qifan is moving on to a new position, also confirming reports by the SCMP. Huang, 64, has been named a deputy of the NPC’s financial committee. Huang resigned in December amid rumours that he might be promoted to oversee financial policy.