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China names new economic planning agency chief and commerce minister

BEIJING China has appointed a new head for its top economic planning agency and a new commerce minister as part of a reshuffle ahead of a crucial Communist Party meeting later this year.

Mr He Lifeng, a vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), has been tapped to lead the agency, state media Xinhua said yesterday on its official microblog, citing a decision by the standing committee of the National People's Congress.

He is replacing Mr Xu Shaoshi, who has reached retirement age.

Meanwhile, Mr Zhong Shan, currently a Vice-Commerce Minister, will take over the ministry from Mr Gao Hucheng, who is also due to retire, the Ministry of Commerce said.

Mr Zhong was previously China's international trade representative, responsible for trade negotiations.

Beijing is struggling to cope with weak global demand, and it faces risks from growing trade protectionism amid signs of a retreat from globalisation, which has benefited China hugely.

The NDRC is tasked with overseeing the Chinese economy, regulating prices and approving major infrastructure projects. It has seen its influence erode as Beijing pushes for market-based reforms and deregulation.

Mr He, 62, is expected to push supply-side reforms and spearhead a drive to cut excess capacity in the steel and coal sectors.

The 19th Party Congress, expected to be in the autumn, will see Chinese President Xi Jinping look to further cement his grip on power.

Chinese officials have pledge to maintain stable economic growth this year to ensure a successful party meeting.

China's economy grew 6.7 per cent last year - one of the fastest rates in the world - but it faces risks from rising debt and growing asset bubbles, which leaders have vowed to address this year. - REUTERS

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