BEIJING — The National People's Congress on Tuesday approved a new Chinese Cabinet, including new ministers of defense and foreign affairs.
The congress also approved constitutional amendments confirming the legality of private enterprise and allowing land-use rights to be bought and sold.
Qian Qichen, 60, who speaks Russian and English and has dealt with Soviet affairs as a vice foreign minister, replaced Wu Xueqian, 60, as foreign minister. Wu was named one of three vice premiers.
Gen. Qin Jiwei, 73, who has been commander of the Beijing Military Area, replaced the ailing Zhang Aiping, 80, as defense minister. Qin was also named one of nine state councilors, who rank just below the vice premiers.
Vice Premiers Yao Yilin and Tian Jiyun retained their posts.
10 New Ministers
Altogether, the heads of 41 State Council ministries and commissions were named, including 10 new ministers.
All the officials will work under newly confirmed Premier Li Peng, 59. Their confirmation is the final step in a transition that began last fall at a Communist Party congress and has now brought generally younger, more reformist-minded leaders to top positions in the party and government.
The 13 top officials of the State Council average 61 years in age, and nine of them are college graduates, according to the official New China News Agency.
"China is rejuvenating its leadership, making it professionally more competent as a measure to ensure the continuity of its current policies for reform and opening to the outside world," the news agency said.
"These principal leaders of the State Council are competent in running affairs of the government, reform-minded and pragmatic. Most of them are experienced officials in the prime of life."
Qin Defense Minister
Qin, the new minister of defense, is considered a close associate of China's paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, 84, and of reformist General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, 69, whom Deng has positioned as his successor.
At the Defense Ministry, authority has been deliberately limited since 1971, when Lin Biao, who was then defense minister, allegedly plotted a coup against Chairman Mao Tse-tung. Ever since the alleged plot, power has been concentrated in the Communist Party's Central Military Commission, which is headed by Deng.
As part of China's drive to modernize its army, the Defense Ministry is expected to assume greater importance under Qin. His closeness to Zhao is also seen by many observers as strengthening the general secretary's political power base.
Qian, the new foreign minister, dealt with Soviet affairs from 1954 to 1974, and in that period he spent 10 years in the Soviet Union, according to the New China News Agency.
Since 1982, Qian has headed Beijing's negotiating team seeking to normalize relations between China and the Soviet Union. The two governments split bitterly in the early 1960s over strategic and ideological differences. Qian has also headed China's delegation to Sino-Soviet border talks, which resumed last year after an eight-year hiatus. Relations between the two governments, while still strained, have gradually improved.
The two constitutional amendments approved Tuesday are intended to provide a stronger legal base for two key areas of China's market-oriented reforms: the growth of private businesses and creation of real estate markets dealing in land-use rights.