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China's Communist Party

China’s State Council makes big changes as heads of nine of 15 agencies are replaced in 2018

  • Some chiefs arrive after predecessors removed by party anti-corruption watchdogs
  • New leadership for energy, tobacco, defence sciences and immigration bureaus
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 December, 2018, 7:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 December, 2018, 11:14pm

China’s State Council has replaced more than half of the heads of agencies under its direct control this year.

A count by the South China Morning Post found that nine of the 15 bureaus directly under State Council supervision are under new leadership, meaning changes at vice-ministerial level.

The most recent was in mid November, when former PetroChina president Zhang Jianhua was appointed to lead China’s National Energy Administration (NEA). The NEA was without a leader for two months after Nur Bekri was detained by the Communist Party watchdog in a corruption investigation.

Zhang, 54, is the first NEA head to have a background in the energy sector since the authority’s founding in 2008. Besides formulating and implementing energy strategies, he will have to repair the agency’s reputation after Nur Bekri and Liu Tienan, Nur’s predecessor, faced corruption investigations.

Liu, who was removed as head of the NEA in March 2013, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2014 for taking more than 35 million yuan (US$5.1 million) in bribes.

China’s former Xinjiang governor Nur Bekri facing corruption probe

Zhang is a member of the party leadership in China’s National Development and Reform Commission, which oversees the NEA.

The commission is the country’s most senior economic planning authority. Directors of agencies typically hold deputy positions in supervising ministries.

At 54, Zhang Jianhua of the NEA and Zhang Jianmin of the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration were the youngest of nine directors appointed this year.

Before going to Beijing, Zhang Jianmin was executive vice-chairman of Inner Mongolia autonomous region. In this round of reshuffles, only he and Xu Ganlu, who was appointed director of the National Immigration Bureau, were from provincial party and government positions. The rest were promoted from within their bureaucracies.

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Another man to gain a promotion was Zhang Kejian, who in May was given directorship of the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence.

Before the 57-year-old took over, the agency had been without a head for five months. His predecessor, Tang Dengjie, was appointed deputy party chief of Fujian province in December 2017.

Zhang now also heads China’s National Space Administration and China Atomic Energy Authority.

Besides those high-profile positions, other appointment this year include Jiao Hong, who became the director of the State Drug Administration, and Shen Changyu, who now heads the State Intellectual Property Office.

Zhang Wufeng became the director of the National Food and Strategic Reserve Administration, Zhang Jianlong was appointed head of the National Forestry and Grassland Bureau, and Yu Wenming was named director of the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine.