Who’s Who in China’s New Government Leadership Lineup

China’s National People’s Congress selected vice premiers and ministers March 16 after naming Xi Jinping president and Li Keqiang the nation’s premier.

Vice Premiers:

Zhang Gaoli, 66, Vice Premier. Zhang, a member of the seven-man elite Politburo Standing Committee, started his career in the oil industry in southern China in the 1970s, taking the top post in the city of Shenzhen in 1997. He’s been moving north ever since, becoming Communist Party Secretary of coastal Shandong Province in 2002 and the top official in Tianjin municipality in 2007. While in Tianjin, he oversaw a surge in infrastructure spending centered on a new financial district modeled on Manhattan. The infrastructure spending was backed by borrowing, and the city’s state-owned construction companies are among the most indebted in the country.

Liu Yandong, 67, Vice Premier. Liu is one of two women on the 25-member Politburo. Liu advanced through the ranks of the Communist Party’s Youth League in the 1980s under former President Hu Jintao’s leadership. Liu doesn’t have experience in running provinces or municipalities. From 1991 to 2007 she served in the party’s United Front Work Department, the organization that manages the party’s ties with Hong Kong and ethnic minorities including Tibetans. She became the organization’s minister in 2002. She was named a state councilor in China’s cabinet in 2008, overseeing areas such as culture and education. She is the daughter of a former vice minister of agriculture.

Wang Yang, 58, Vice Premier. Until last year, Wang was Communist Party secretary of Guangdong, the province with the largest population and biggest economy in China and one of the world’s manufacturing hubs. He gained recognition promoting a model of growth which sought to move Guangdong up the manufacturing value chain. He also won plaudits for his handling of an uprising in the fishing town of Wukan in late 2011. Local officials who had backed a property developer in a land dispute were ousted and residents were allowed to elect new council members. After time in the Communist Youth League, he took over the Chongqing party secretary post in 2005. Wang became a Politburo member in 2007.

Ma Kai, 66, Vice Premier. Ma rose through the ranks of China’s planning apparatus to become head of the National Development and Reform Commission in 2003. In 2008 he was promoted to the rank of State Councilor overseeing the planning ministries. He was appointed one of the top officials in charge of running the world’s second-biggest economy. Born in Shanghai, Ma studied political economy at People’s University in Beijing.

Government Ministers, other top officials:

Yang Jiechi, 62, State Councilor. Yang’s experience serving as China’s foreign minister since 2008 puts him in line to become the direct counterpart to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at annual strategic talks between the countries. Yang studied at the London School of Economics in the 1970’s and served as a Foreign Ministry translator, including for former President George H.W. Bush when he was the top U.S. official in Beijing in the mid-1970s. Yang was ambassador to the U.S. during President George W. Bush’s first term.

Wang Yi, 59, China’s new foreign minister. Wang is a career diplomat and Japanese speaker who served as ambassador to Japan in 2004 to 2007 and then as China’s top diplomat for six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program. Since 2008, Wang has served as the director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of China’s cabinet, overseeing talks and ties between the mainland and the island.

Lou Jiwei, 62, China’s new finance minister. Lou has led China’s $482 billion sovereign wealth fund, China Investment Corp., since 2007. Since 2008, he’s been chairman of Central Huijin Investment Ltd., which controls the government stakes in banks, including Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. A graduate of Beijing’s Tsinghua University, Lou was vice governor of southwestern China’s Guizhou Province from 1995 to 1998 before joining the Finance Ministry, where he served as vice finance minister until 2007. Lou, a smoker, has been known for speaking to reporters during his cigarette breaks at conferences. He’s also made public judgments about the quality of global assets, including U.S. debt. Lou said in January that as the U.S. economy recovered, rising U.S. interests rates were “only a matter of time.”

Xu Shaoshi, 61, Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission. Xu moves from his post atop the Ministry of Land and Resources. The NDRC is a remnant of China’s planned economy and formulates economic policies as well as approving construction projects. Born in eastern China, Xu was sent out to the countryside in northeast Jilin Province during the Cultural Revolution. He began his career at the Ministry of Geology and Mineral Resources. In 1993 he moved to the General Office of the State Council, the country’s highest state organ, becoming deputy secretary general in 2000.

Chang Wanquan, 64, Minister of Defense. Chang served as director of the People’s Liberation Army general armament department from 2007 to 2012, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. Born in Henan Province, he has five siblings and developed close ties to Hu Jintao, according to Cheng Li, a China scholar at Washington’s Brookings Institution. With a background in military technology and the space program, he advocates rapid military modernization, according to Li.

Gao Hucheng, 61, Minister of Commerce. He previously served as vice commerce minister and China’s international trade representative. Gao studied in Paris and Zaire, later Democratic Republic of Congo, and worked at the Chinese embassy there in the late 1980’s. Gao was appointed vice minister of commerce in 2003. He accompanied President Xi Jinping to Washington last year, announcing a trade promotion effort that included a drive to purchase $26 billion in U.S. goods.

— With assistance by Michael Forsythe

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