China's Congress names key economic and defense officials in cabinet reshuffle

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China’s ceremonial legislature on Monday approved new appointments to the posts of vice premier, defense minister and governor of the country’s central bank.

The confirmations, which follow President Xi Jinping’s reappointment on Saturday, set the tone for Beijing’s plans to reform its economy and modernize its military in Xi’s second term.

Read more: China’s Congress reappoints Premier Li Keqiang and names new anti-graft watchdog

Liu He (picture-alliance/dpa/G.Ehrenzeller)

Liu He is a close confidant of President Xi Jinping

The newly-filled positions:

  • Liu He, Xi’s economic advisor, was elected to take over one of China’s four vice premier posts, where he is expected to oversee Xi’s economic reform efforts.
  • Yi Gang, a deputy of the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), was elected to take over as the bank’s governor. Yi, who received his PhD in the United States, replaces veteran Governor Zhou Xiaochuan.
  • Liu Kun, head of the parliament’s budget office, was elected to replace Xiao Jie as finance minister.
  • He Lifeng was re-elected as head of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s economic planning agency.
  • Zhong Shan was re-elected as commerce minister.
  • Lt. Gen. Wei Fenghe was elected as defense minister.
  • Wang Yi was re-elected as foreign minister.

Why the economic appointments matter: Xi’s government faces a rising national debt pile, trade tensions with the US and the EU, and slower economic growth. Beijing has vowed to get its debt under control to mitigate financial risks to the Chinese economy. Liu is expected to be at the forefront of those efforts.

Read more: Germany, China to work on steel overcapacity via G20

Modernizing the military: Wei is set to oversee China’s military modernization and be the face of the armed forces in meetings with foreign counterparts. Xi nevertheless outranks Wei as chairman of the Central Military Commission.

Read more: China boosts defense spending for 2018

More of the same: Yi’s appointment to central bank chief appears to be vote for continuity in PBOC policies under Zhou, his predecessor and mentor. His powers are however relatively limited. The PBOC, in contrast to central banks in other countries, carries out monetary policy set by another state agency, the identity of whose members is secret.

Read more: Donald Trump eyes massive tariffs on China tech sector

amp/rt (AP, Reuters)

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