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China has a new Government

China’s National People’s Congress

China’s National People’s Congress (parliament) approved the members of the country’s new government on Sunday, the final day of the body’s annual meeting held in Beijing this week. The roughly 3,000 delegates approved the proposed names for the various cabinet posts after confirming Li Qiang as the country’s premier on Saturday at the suggestion of President Xi Jinping, a day after Xi was unanimously re-elected to a third term, his third historic term as president. Economic expert He Lifeng was named vice premier, overseeing financial and economic policy, replacing Liu He, who presided over trade negotiations with the US. Other vice premiers are close political allies of President Xi Jinping. “This close relationship could help the new government implement its policies and ensure inter-ministerial coordination,” as some analysts have commented. US-sanctioned General Li Shangfu has been named the new defense minister, having previously headed the Central Military Commission’s weapons development program. Like his predecessor, Wei Fengh, Li will be the sole representative of the military in the new cabinet.

The administration of former US President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on Li and his weapons development department in 2018 on charges of buying weapons from the Russian state-owned company Rosoboronexport. The US Secretary of State at the time, Mike Pompeo, announced sanctions against China’s Equipment Development Department (EDD) and its then-director, Li Shangfu, for the 2017 purchase of Su-35 fighter jets and related equipment, including the S-400 surface-to-air missile system, in 2018. Congress approved Wang Xiaohong as Minister of Public Security and Chen Yixin as Minister of State Security, who will lead the country’s internal and intelligence apparatus. The head of the National Health Commission, Ma Xiaowei, who oversaw the country’s zero-COVID” policy, remains in office. In a surprise decision that could be aimed at boosting confidence in the Chinese economy, Xi kept key cabinet members on finance and trade. Finance Minister Liu Kun and Commerce Minister Wang Wentao kept their posts. Yi Gang will also remain the head of the central bank despite being expected to step down as he has reached retirement age. Zheng Shanjie, a close associate of Xi, was named head of the National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s main economic planning body. The government is working to revitalize China’s economy, which grew by just 3 percent last year, one of the weakest performances in decades, and Premier Li will have the difficult task of laying the foundations for the recovery of the world’s second-largest economy. China has set a growth target of “around 5%” for 2023, one of the lowest in decades, as the world’s second-largest economy has largely missed its growth target due to tight restrictions and a smoldering real estate crisis. The new executive is also expected to advance guidelines such as achieving “scientific and technological self-sufficiency,” a response to Washington’s veto on the manufacture of American chips by Chinese companies. Xi, the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), consolidated his power on Friday after the ANP nominated him for a third five-year presidential term, unprecedented among his predecessors. He also validated his position as president of the Central Military Commission (CMC), which is equivalent to that of the head of the armed forces. In this way, the president’s control over the three arms of power—the state, the CCP, and the army—is consolidated.

By Cora Sulleyman

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