Liu He, a financial advisor and alleged close personal friend of Chinese President Xi Jinping, has been made vice-premier of the country. The appointment was one of several changes in today’s government restructuring at the National People’s Congress, with most spreading power between Xi’s top allies.
Liu’s new role, one of the top positions in the Chinese government, puts him in charge of economic policies and financial issues. Liu is slated to lead the Financial Stability and Development Commission and will oversee coordination between regulators and the central bank to minimise financial risks.
Liu is also likely to assume responsibility for day-to-day relations with the United States, which is both China’s main global rival and largest trading partner.
He said: “We will open wider to the world across the board. To be specific, we will further integrate with international trade rules and ease market access. We will also substantially open up the services sector, the financial sector in particular, and create a more attractive investment environment.”
He added: “When it comes to such global challenges as climate change, disruptive technologies and terrorism, no country can cope with them alone. We need to have an open mind and take a strategic perspective. We need to enhance mutual understanding, tolerance and trust. And we must seek cooperation in a sensible and practical manner.
“We need to make economic globalisation more open, inclusive, and balanced so that its benefits can be shared by all. We need to shape a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation, and build a community with a shared future for mankind. We believe this is the only way that will lead us to prosperity.”
These obligations give the quiet and mild-mannered economist an unusually diverse portfolio and elevate Liu’s standing to that of former economic tsar Zhu Ronghi.
The appointment comes as Beijing attempts to clamp down on dangerous financing and growing levels of debt that might derail the world’s second-largest economy.
Now starting his second five-year term as ruler, President Xi has already bypassed bureaucratic convention to consolidate power and his new economic team is no different.
Other appointments include the promotion of Hu Chunhua, Han Zheng and Sun Chunlan to Vice Premier roles, and Wang Qishan to vice president.
The one surprising move was the choice of Yi Gang as the new leader of the People’s Bank of China. Yi, currently deputy governor of the bank, is a protege of outgoing head Zhou Xiaochuan and his appointment is seen as an attempt at monetary continuity.
Yi faces some tough tests in his new role as head of a central bank with recently expanded powers, taking charge of efforts to liberalise China’s exchange rate and increase foreign investment into Chinese markets.