Mar 17, 2013

China - China installs Cabinet of party vets, technocrats

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BEIJING (AP) — China’s new leaders turned Saturday to veteran technocrats with greater international experience to staff a Cabinet charged with overhauling a slowing economy and pursuing a higher global profile for the country without triggering opposition.

The ceremonial legislature approved nearly three dozen trusted politicians, experienced officials and career diplomats who make up the State Council. Their appointment largely completes a once-a-decade transfer of power to a new generation of communist leaders.

The new team takes charge at a time of difficult transitions. With the economic model that brought decades of high growth sputtering, the government is looking to transform the world’s second-largest economy by nurturing self-sustaining growth based on domestic consumption and technology industries instead of labor-intensive exports and investment. A more assertive foreign policy, cyber-hacking and years of scouring the world for resources have also touched off nervousness among China’s neighbors and the U.S. and set off a small but potentially threatening backlash against Chinese investment.

The senior officials installed Saturday are representative of how far China’s reach extends, having far more international exposure than their predecessors.

Beijing’s French-educated trade envoy, Gao Hucheng, was named commerce minister. Appointed finance minister was Lou Jiwei, chairman of China’s multibillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund and a former deputy finance minister who is a fixture in international financial circles. Their appointment is likely to reassure trading partners and financial markets about policy continuity.

Central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan, another prominent figure, was also kept on.

Similarly, Wang Yi, a career diplomat with experience working on some of China’s knottiest diplomatic issues, was named foreign minister. A former ambassador to Japan, Wang worked with the United States in nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea and has charted Beijing’s successful outreach to Taiwan, healing an estrangement from their separation in the Chinese civil war.

The transfer of power has been in the works for years and saw divisive bargaining among Communist Party power brokers and their factions. The sudden cashiering of a powerful and popular politician, Bo Xilai, over a seamy scandal of corruption and murder last year exposed fault lines that the party leadership prefers to keep hidden behind a mask of unity.

If they are to govern effectively, President Xi Jinping and the other party leaders installed in November will have to heal the rifts.

The composition of the Cabinet is more inclusive, reaching beyond the party’s inner circle. Among the vice premiers is Wang Yang, an ally of now-retired President Hu Jintao, who earned a reputation as a liberal reformer by encouraging compromises over workers’ strikes and a revolt by a fishing village when he ran the wealthy coastal province of Guangdong.

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