04/27/2007, 00.00
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Yang Jiechi, ex ambassador to the US, is the new Foreign Minister

The appointment was made official today at the end of the National People's Congress Standing Committee meeting. New ministers also for, Science and Technology, Water resources and Land.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Li Zhaoxing, Chinese Foreign Minister will step down today on having reached retirement age.  He will be replaced by Yang Jiechi, 57, former ambassador to the United States.  The appointment was made official today at the end of the National People's Congress Standing Committee meeting. New ministers were also appointed for Science and Technology, Water resources and Land.


Of note is Wan Gang, 55, neo Minister of Science and Technology, he will become the first cabinet minister to come from outside the Communist Party ranks. Chen Lei , 53, takes the place of Wang Shucheng and will become the new water resources minister, Xu Shaoshi , 55, will replace Sun Whensheng as minister for land and natural resources.


In recent weeks, a veritable internal war had broken out in the race to succeed Li at the head of the powerful Foreign Ministry: contenders included Wang Guangya, Chinese ambassador to the UN, the director of the Department for International Wang Jiarui and the present ambassador to Japan, Wang Yi.


Sources say Yang secured the post partly because his appointment was backed by President Hu Jintao Yang impressed Hu during his trip to the US as vice-president in 2002. The only question mark hanging over his promotion is his health, following a heart attack and subsequent bypass. 


Educated at the London School of Economics, Mr Yang spent most of his diplomatic career on China's most strategic bilateral relation - with the US. He was China's top negotiator during the 2001 spy plane incident in Hainan (when a US surveillance plane was forced to land after a collision with a mainland fighter jet). He is articulate, and liked by US diplomats.


These appointments are part of an overall plan to renew the Chinese leadership.  According to Hamilton College Professor,  Li Cheng, over 60 % of the communist official will be replaced during the National People’s General Congress due next autumn.


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