updated 8/30/2007 7:37:18 AM ET 2007-08-30T11:37:18

China replaced five Cabinet ministers — including the finance minister and the head of the secret police — the government said Thursday, just weeks ahead of a major Communist Party meeting that will set the country’s policies for the next five years.

Jin Renqing, finance minister since 2003, has been replaced by Xie Xuren, government spokesman He Shaoren told a news conference. He also announced that Geng Huichang had replaced Xu Yongyue as state security minister in charge of China’s secret police.

The others replaced were the ministers of supervision and personnel, and the minister in charge of the State Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, He said.

The changes were announced at the end of a meeting of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature. The committee meets to decide laws and personnel changes when the legislature is not in its annual sitting.

One official said Jin stepped down for personal reasons, but no reasons were given for the other changes.

“For personal reasons, Jin Renqing requested to resign. The central government agreed to his request and approved appointing him to be deputy director of the Development Research Center of the State Council,” a spokeswoman for the State Council told The Associated Press earlier on condition of anonymity in line with department policy.

The State Council is China’s Cabinet.

Major Party congress
Jin’s transfer comes six weeks before the opening of a twice-a-decade Communist Party congress. Besides setting policy, the meeting is also expected to result in new appointments of senior party and government positions.

Xie, Jin’s replacement, has been director of the tax administration since March 2003. He is also an alternative member of the party’s Central Committee.

Jin, 63, is one of about 200 members of the Communist Party’s Central Committee, and formerly headed the tax administration.

There was no immediate word on what factors had influenced Jin’s resignation, but similar cases in the past have been attributed to marital, health or family problems. Jin is still two years below the official retirement age for officials at the central government level.

Asked Wednesday about rumors of Jin’s departure, Central Bank Vice Governor Su Ning said monetary policy would not be affected by personnel changes at the Finance Ministry, a reflection of how decisions about the direction of China’s economy are determined at a higher level.

Geng was vice minister of the State Security Ministry. Few other details were known about him.

Ma Wen was appointed supervision minister, replacing Li Zhilun, who died of an illness in April, He said.

Zhang Qingwei was appointed director — a ministerial-level position — in charge of the State Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, replacing Zhang Yunchuan.

The fifth change was the appointment of Yin Weimin as minister of personnel, replacing Zhang Bolin, who is retiring.

Jin’s time in office saw huge growth and development in the economy as well as concerns about overheating.

Central bank: Inflation likely
On Wednesday, the central bank said inflation was likely to exceed the government’s 3 percent target for the year despite a series of credit tightening measures to tamp down prices and cool enthusiasm for buying shares.

Jin’s tenure at the Finance Ministry also saw China’s foreign currency reserves surge past $1.3 trillion, a sign both of China’s foreign trade juggernaut and the government’s failure to balance flows of money into and out of the economy.

He oversaw preparations for the creation of one of the world’s largest investment funds to make more profitable use of its foreign currency reserves that are now parked in safe, but relatively low-yielding U.S. Treasury securities and other dollar-denominated assets.

China’s massive trade surplus with the United States which hit $235 billion last year and is expected to grow this year, has put Beijing under pressure to revalue its currency. Critics say the Chinese yuan is deliberately undervalued against the U.S. dollar and other currencies to spur trade by making Chinese exports unfairly cheap.

Beijing says its currency regime is fair, but has allowed a gradual strengthening of the yuan.

Corruption allegations
Also Thursday, China removed four officials accused of corruption from its legislature, the official Xinhua News Agency said, apparently signaling the ruling Communist Party’s resolve to battle the widespread problem.

Chen Liangyu, a former party boss of Shanghai who has been jailed and is awaiting trial on corruption charges, was stripped of his last official post as a deputy to the National People’s Congress, Xinhua said. Chen was kicked out of the party last month and fired from all government positions after he was dismissed as Shanghai party secretary in 2006.

He is the highest-level Chinese official to be dismissed in a decade. His ouster reflects the ruling Communist Party’s push to crack down on deeply rooted corruption ahead of a major, twice-a-decade meeting of party leaders in October.

Also kicked out of the People’s Congress were Duan Yihe, head of the city council in Shandong’s capital, Jinan; Sun Shengchang, a former mayor in northeast China’s Heilongjiang province; and Bao Jianmin, former director of the Henan Provincial Bureau of Quality Supervision, Xinhua said.

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