China unveils new cabinet amid function reform

2013-03-17 15:23:40 GMT2013-03-17 23:23:40(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

BEIJING, March 17 (Xinhua)-- China's new cabinet, which was unveiled on Saturday, is expected to accelerate its functional transformation and present a new style under new Premier Li Keqiang.

Citizens expect the new cabinet members to create a favorable environment for development, provide high-quality public services and maintain social fairness and justice. All of these will set a decisive foundation for building a well-off society in an all-round way and realizing the "Chinese dream" -- the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

Members of the State Council, or China's cabinet, include ministers, heads of commissions, the central bank governor and auditor-general.

With the launch of a restructuring plan, the current cabinet lineup has 25 members, two fewer than the previous one. According to legal procedures, they were nominated by the new premier, endorsed by lawmakers at the first session of the 12th National People's Congress and appointed by newly-elected President Xi Jinping.

The average age of the new cabinet members is 60, nearly three years older than the last lineup. On the whole, however, they have richer work experience in central and local departments and remarkable advantages in terms of their knowledge, education and professionalism.

All cabinet members have a college education background, an 11-percent increase over the last cabinet. In the new cabinet, one member has a junior college certificate and three are university graduates. Twenty-one members have post-graduate diplomas, accounting for nearly 85 percent, or 14 percent higher than the previous cabinet. Furthermore, their college majors are more diverse, with a remarkable increase in humanities.

The cabinet has eight new faces, including Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Defense Minister Chang Wanquan, Finance Minister Lou Jiwei, Minister of Supervision Huang Shuxian, Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng, Minister of Land and Resources Jiang Daming and Minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission Li Bin.

Wang Yi, who was previously director of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, has also worked in the foreign ministry before, holding the posts of vice foreign minister and the Communist Party of China (CPC) chief of the ministry.

Lou Jiwei was previously chairman of the China Investment Corporation, China's sovereign wealth fund, and Central Huijin Investment Ltd. He has also served as vice finance minister and deputy secretary-general of the State Council.

Gao Hucheng was formerly the vice minister of commerce. Wang Zhengwei, Jiang Daming and Li Bin are former governors of northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and east China's Shandong and Anhui provinces, respectively.

Chang Wanquan is a member of the CPC Central Military Commission. Huang Shuxian is from the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

Of the 17 other members, Xu Shaoshi was previously minister of land and resources. Sixteen cabinet members kept their current posts.

Defense Minister Chang Wanquan, 64, and Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun, 58, are also new state councilors. Chang is in charge of national defense construction. Guo is responsible for maintaining public security, social stability and harmony.

The new cabinet has 24 CPC members. Jiang Weixin, minister of housing and urban-rural development, and Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank of China, are not members of the CPC Central Committee.

A great test for the new cabinet will involve transforming how the government functions and correcting defaults and overlaps in duty and work to build a well-structured, clean, efficient and service-oriented government that has scientifically defined functions and that the people are satisfied with, observers say.

Function transformation is the core of the State Council's institutional reform plan, which is not simply institutional restructuring. The transformation will mark new and significant progress in deepening China's administrative system reform.

The reform means the new cabinet will exert more efforts to overcome difficulties and problems, speed up the transformation of China's economic growth mode and achieve sustained and sound economic and social development.

In the reform plan adopted by the NPC, the Ministry of Railways has been abolished. Administrative functions pertaining to railway development planning and policies will be covered by the Ministry of Transport. The proposed China Railway Corporation will carry out the commercial function of the dismantled railway ministry.

Transport Minister Yang Chuantang, 58, kept his post. In a country with the biggest population and third-largest land area in the world, Yang faces the tough task of accelerating the construction of the country's comprehensive transport system.

The Health Ministry and the National Population and Family Planning Commission were merged into a new National Health and Family Planning Commission. The merge is aimed at improving the quality of new births and the health condition of the people. The new commission is also in charge of assessing food safety risks and formulating food safety standards.

Li Bin, 58, heads the National Health and Family Planning Commission. She is one of two female cabinet members. She was head of the National Population and Family Planning Commission in the previous cabinet and later became governor of Anhui Province, making her the only female governor in China.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has undertaken the task of laying out population development strategies, plans and policies.

Meanwhile, the State Electricity Regulatory Commission was dissolved and merged with the National Energy Administration, which is under the jurisdiction of the NDRC.

Deepening reform and achieving substantial progress in key sectors and processes will be an urgent challenge for Xu Shaoshi, the 61-year-old minister of the NDRC.

In addition to the China Marine Surveillance, the department in charge of enforcing maritime law, the regrouped National Oceanic Administration (NOA) also includes the coast guard forces of the Public Security Ministry, the fisheries law enforcement command of the Agriculture Ministry and the maritime anti-smuggling police of the General Administration of Customs.

The NOA is administered by the ministry of land and resources, headed by 60-year-old Jiang Daming. Jiang had been governor of Shandong Province for five years. He will handle the tasks of improving land resource development and carrying out maritime law enforcement to resolutely safeguard the country's oceanic rights and interests in a highly efficient way.

Three cabinet members -- Wan Gang, minister of science and technology,Wang Zhengwei, minister in charge of the state ethnic affairs commission and Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank of China, are also vice chairmen of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country's top political advisory body.

Wan Gang, 60, is the only non-communist in the cabinet. Wan, chairman of the China Zhigong Party's Central Committee, was also chairman of the 11th National Committee of the CPPCC. He is the first ministerial-level non-communist in the cabinet since the start of country's reform and opening up drive more than 30 years ago. One of Wan's key tasks will be to deepen the reform of the management system for science and technology and promote innovation-driven development.

Wang Zhengwei, 55, of the Hui ethnic minority group, is the youngest of the cabinet members. He was previously chairman of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region for about five years. Overseeing the implementation and improvement of the regional ethnic autonomy system will be his most important task.

Zhou Xiaochuan, 65, is the oldest member of the cabinet. He has been central bank governor for more than ten years. The efforts and effects of financial system reforms conducted during his tenure made him impressive. He was spotlighted by global media when he proposed the creation of a super-sovereign reserve currency at the beginning of the global financial crisis in early 2009.

Due to the sustained impact of the global financial crisis, fiscal policy has played an increasingly important role in stabilizing economic growth, adjusting China's economic structure, pushing forward reform and improving people's well-being.

Deepening tax reform, improving the government expenditure structure, increasing investment in people's well-being and controlling financial risks are important tasks for 62-year-old finance minister Lou Jiwei.

The Chinese government has made it the starting point and goal of all the government's work to ensure and improve public well-being. Four members who remain in office in relevant ministries are Zhou Shengxian, 63, minister of environmental protection, Jiang Weixin, 64, minister of housing and urban-rural development, Yin Weimin, 60, minister of human resources and social security and Li Liguo, 59, minister of civil affairs.

People expect them to make new breakthroughs in improving public well-being with their accumulated rich experiences and knowledge. These expectations include improving the quality of air, soil and water, enhancing housing security, improving the regulation of the real estate industry, creating more and better job opportunities and improving the social assistance system.

The ministers of education and culture also remain unchanged. Education Minister Yuan Guiren faces the tasks of promoting fairness in education, creating education innovation and cultivating creative talent. Cultural Minister Cai Wu is expected to deepen the reform of the cultural sector, promote the fast development of cultural industry and improve the public cultural service system so as to meet the growing cultural demands of the public.

The 18th National Congress of the CPC held in November 2012 put forward a new goal of promoting the harmonized development of industrialization, IT application, urbanization and agricultural modernization.

Three relevant ministers kept their posts, including Miao Wei, 57, minister of industry and information technology, Han Changfu, 58, minister of agriculture and Chen Lei, also 58, minister of water resources. People hope they will work efficiently to promote the implementation of the CPC congress' strategic goal.

Adhering to governance according to law, improving oversight and strengthening the building of a clean government have been listed as the basic tenets of the Chinese government's work. The Ministry of Supervision and the National Audit Office will shoulder the great responsibility of restraining power.

Supervision Minister Huang Shuxian, 58, will need to innovate working mechanisms to strengthen oversight over the political integrity of leading officials. Enhancing auditing oversight will be the key task of Liu Jiayi, 56, auditor-general of the National Audit Office.

Justice Minister Wu Aiying, is the cabinet's only other female member. She is expected to reform the much-disputed re-education through labor system and promote the rule of law.

China is the world's second-largest economy and second-largest trader. The stance, role and actions of Chinese diplomacy are of great interest to others.

Facing a complex and volatile international environment, new Foreign Minister Wang Yi is expected to focus on promoting Chinese diplomacy, helping to resolve international and regional hotspot issues, effectively dissolving risks and challenges and fostering an international environment that will be favorable for China's reform, development and stability.

New Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng is expected to tackle growing international trade protectionism, ensure stable export growth and create new advantages for China in terms of participating in global economic cooperation and competition in order to realize mutual benefit.

Geng Huichang, 61, minister of state security, kept his post.

The modernization of the government is the key to national development, analysts say. At a new historical juncture and starting point, China's new leadership has launched a new round of reform focusing on functional transformation.

"The members of the new cabinet will be the main executors of the modernization of the Chinese government, as well as shoulder the responsibility of building an image of a modern government," said Chi Fulin, director of the China (Hainan) Institute for Reform and Development.

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