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China Gets New Finance, Science Ministers, Defence Chief Axed

The new finance minister is Lan Foan, a former governor of Shanxi province, while former defence minister Li Shangfu lost several senior positions

Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu speaking at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, on June 4, 2023. Mark Cheong/The Straits Times via REUTERS
Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu speaks at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, on June 4, 2023. No successor was named to replace him and no explanation given on his dismissal. Photo: Reuters.


China has appointed new ministers for finance, plus science and technology – and sacked its Defence Minister Li Shangfu, who was appointed in March but has not been seen in public in late August.

The new Finance Minister is Lan Foan, a former governor of Shanxi province, who was appointed Communist Party chief of the ministry last month.

Lan, 61, is a technocrat with little central government experience. He comes in as the government ramps up stimulus to try to revive the economy.

One of his key tasks will reportedly be managing debt risks of local governments.


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China’s 31 provincial regions have debts totalling about $13 trillion and data released last week showed that the country’s property sector crisis and impacts from the global trade slowdown have cut their spending power by about $950 million.

That problem was said to have cast a big shadow a recent party congress, Reuters said.

Local governments have long been a pump-primer of China’s development, but a drop in land sales revenue in the wake of the country’s property crisis and a crackdown on undeclared debts has severely eroded their financial outlays.

In the first eight months, China’s 31 provincial-level regions reported a gap between public revenue and expenditure of 6.74 trillion yuan ($948 billion).

Lan is a university graduate who became a finance official in Guangdong province in 1985, before being appointed to a senior provincial post and shifting to Shanxi in 2021.

He replaces Liu Kun, China’s finance minister since 2018, who passed the official retirement age of 65 for minister-level officials.

Separately, the National People’s Congress announced that Yin Hejun had replaced Wang Zhigang as Science and Technology minister. Wang served as deputy minister, then minister in that portfolio for nine years.

Meanwhile, former defence minister Li Shangfu – the subject of much speculation after he disappeared from public view in September – also lost his positions on the Central Military Commission and as one of China’s five state councillors, state broadcaster CCTV reported on Tuesday.

His successor has yet to be named. The disappearance of Li and former foreign minister Qin Gang raised questions about the opaque nature of China’s political system.


  • Jim Pollard with Reuters




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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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