Monday July 22, 2024

China retains central bank chief in unexpected move

March 13, 2023

BEIJING: China retained its central bank chief in a surprise move on Sunday, as the country appointed a cabinet focused on fighting economic headwinds.

Yi Gang was confirmed as governor of the People´s Bank of China at a meeting of China´s national legislature, against expectations that retirement-age Yi would step down. Two top economic officials — commerce minister Wang Wentao and finance minister Liu Kun — were also retained, as well as National Health Commission director Ma Xiaowei, who oversaw China´s zero-Covid policy. The cabinet faces the task of revitalising the Chinese economy, which last year expanded just three percent — one of its weakest performances in decades. General Li Shangfu, who was sanctioned by the US government in 2018 for buying Russian weapons, was named defence minister. US-China tensions have worsened in recent weeks, exacerbated by the entry of an alleged Chinese spy balloon into US airspace and accusations that Beijing might supply Moscow with weapons to use against Ukraine. President Xi Jinping slammed the United States this week for leading an effort of “containment, encirclement and suppression of China”.

Li´s appointment is “a deliberate pushback against US sanctions”, said Manoj Kewalramani, China expert at the Takshashila Institution in Bengaluru, India. The move “demonstrates Beijing´s willingness to engage in brinkmanship” and will “add another hurdle in US-China engagement, which is already very constrained”, he told AFP.

The National People´s Congress also confirmed key Xi allies to its cabinet. Top Xi aide Ding Xuexiang and He Lifeng, a longtime colleague of Xi´s, were nominated to vice premier positions by new premier Li Qiang. Ding and He received almost all votes from more than 2,900 legislators, with former mayor of Tianjin Zhang Guoqing as well as former Shaanxi province party secretary Liu Guozhong also selected as vice premiers.