China unveils new Cabinet amid dip in growth, territorial disputes

China unveils new Cabinet amid dip in growth, territorial disputes

(Eds: Updating with more details)

By K J M Varma

Beijing, Mar 19 (PTI) Chinese Premier Li Keqiang today unveiled his new Cabinet as part of the governments efforts to stabilise the worlds second largest economy and appointed a missile expert as the defence minister amidst regional tensions with its neighbours over territorial disputes.

The new line-up approved by the rubber-stamp parliament, the National Peoples Congress, includes four Vice Premiers, Han Zheng, Sun Chunlan, Hu Chunhua and Liu He.

Their names were approved by nearly 3,000 deputies of the NPC after they were proposed by Premier Li Keqiang, who himself was re-appointed to the post under the new political setup headed by President Xi Jinping.

Xi was re-elected last week for a second five-year term, days after the NPC ratified constitutional amendment, removing term limits for President and Vice President. His close confidant and former anti-corruption chief Wang Qishan has been elected as the Vice President.

Vice Premier Liu He is expected to play a bigger role in the management of the Chinese economy, the worlds second largest after the US.

China which was witnessing nearly three decades of double-digit growth slowed down in 2016 with a slight improvement last year. Debt-fuelled investment in infrastructure and real estate has underpinned Chinas growth for years.

While Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has been elevated as the State Councillor which makes him a top diplomat holding dual posts, another key appointment from Indias point of view was that of the appointment of Lt Gen Wei Fenghe as the new Defence Minister.

Wei is widely regarded as the man behind the international face of Chinas rapid military modernisation and its reorganisation.

He played a key role in splitting the strategic missile force into two parts of Rocket Force and the Strategic Support Force.

Chen Wenqing remains the security czar overseeing the internal security, including espionage and counterintelligence as well as counter terrorism specially in the volatile Xinjiang province.

Also, the Yi Gang, a reformist has been appointed as the new governor of its central bank, the Peoples Bank of China, marking the first change at its helm in 15 years.

He will replace Zhou Xiaochuan who has headed the central bank for more than 15 years during which China has transitioned to become worlds second largest economy replacing Japan.

Yi was deputy to Zhou and was largely regarded as a reformist and head of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange which oversees the countrys over USD 3 trillion forex reserves, the highest in the world.

The new appointments came as China unveiled a massive reshuffle plan of various ministries to make the government better-structured, more efficient and service-oriented, affecting more than two dozen ministries and organisations.

The new revamped administration will have 26 ministries and commissions of the State Council which is the central Cabinet. The new entities included ministry of natural resources, veterans affairs and emergency management.

The plan includes merger of the Ministry of Culture and National Tourism Administration into one.

The sweeping changes include the merger of Chinas banking and insurance regulators and the setting up of a special bureau to oversee immigration issues.

China has been involved in territorial disputes with some of its neighbours, including India.

China claims almost all of the strategic South China Sea and also laid claims on the Senkaku islands under the control of Japan in East China Sea and resorted to aggressive patrols in the last two years.

China also claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of South Tibet. The India-China border dispute covered 3,488 km along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Another territorial dispute China had with India was on Dokalam. The Dokalam standoff began on June 16 after the Peoples Liberation Armys troops began building a road in an area claimed by Bhutan.

The standoff ended on August 28 following mutual agreement under which China stopped the road building and India withdrew its troops. PTI KJV UZM AKJ AKJ AKJ