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Chinese Parliament Endorses Premier's Reformist Cabinet

March 19, 1998| From Reuters

BEIJING — In a victory for reformist Premier Zhu Rongji, China's parliament on Wednesday endorsed a new-look Cabinet packed with technocrats who back his drive to remake a crumbling socialist economy into a 21st century powerhouse.

The sweeping government shuffle put key economic portfolios in the hands of experienced managers in the mold of Zhu, who was elected premier Tuesday.

Among the 29 Cabinet ministers were 22 newcomers, most relatively youthful and well-educated. The lineup reflects the government's overriding concern with building a new industrial and financial system to ride out the Asian economic crisis and engineer China's emergence as an economic superpower.

New ministers were all endorsed unopposed by the National People's Congress. The selection had been decided weeks in advance by the Communist Party leadership.

Political analysts said they expected no major change in China's foreign and defense policies.

Tang Jiaxuan, a 60-year-old career diplomat and Japan expert, was chosen as the new foreign minister. But his predecessor, Qian Qichen, 69, chief architect of rapprochement with the United States after almost a decade of seesawing ties since the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, was likely to keep a grip on foreign policy by retaining his powerful position as vice premier.

Defense Minister Gen. Chi Haotian, 68, was retained.

The analysts described the elections by and large as a triumph for Zhu, 69, in his efforts to seize control of economic policy and attack the twin problems of bad debt among banks and bad results at money-losing state enterprises.

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