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Bo Xilai named China's commerce minister
By Dai Yan (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-02-29 09:37

Bo Xilai, a popular politician and son of a Communist revolutionary, has been named minister of commerce, taking over one of China's most important government agencies.

Bo Xilai [newsphoto file]
Bo, former governor of Northeast China's Liaoning Province, was formally appointed to the position yesterday by the 7th session of the Standing Committee of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC). His predecessor Lu Fuyuan was relieved of his duties due to health reasons.

According to a State Council document to the NPC session, Lu, now hospitalized, asked to resign from his ministerial post. The cabinet recommended appointing Bo to head the commerce ministry because he is familiar with trade and economic issues, is fluent in English and is the appropriate candidate for the post.

Born in 1949, Bo is the son of veteran revolutionary and former Politburo member Bo Yibo.

The charismatic politician was named governor of Liaoning in 2001 after he turned the city of Dalian into one of China's most livable urban areas during his tenure as mayor and the city's Communist Party secretary from 1993 to 2001.

He was credited with attracting large sums of investment from Japan and the Republic of Korea to Dalian and worked to do the same for Liaoning Province after he was named governor.

Bo is determined to revitalize Liaoning, one of the three provinces in the iron belt in the northeast, where the central government just kicked off a revitalization campaign.

Analysts believe Bo, an energetic and persuasive reformer, will suit the new post well and bring new energy to the Ministry of Commerce.

But the tasks ahead will not be easy for Bo, said Li Yushi, an expert from the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Co-operation, a Ministry of Commerce think-tank.

"The integration of foreign trade and internal trade will be demanding," Li said.

The ministry was created one year ago by merging the domestic and foreign trade administrations from different government departments.

The move was designed to streamline management of the trade industry.

The ministry is a combination of the former Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation, the State Economic and Trade Commission and the State Development Planning Commission.

"After a year of operation, we see that more changes need to be done to integrate people and functions." Li said.

He says that departments governing foreign and internal trade should communicate more, rather than work separately.

Bo is also facing pressure as foreign countries watch how he, as head of the Ministry of Commerce, will enforce China's commitments to the World Trade Organization (WTO), Li said.

China has to fulfill more of these promises as the transitional period is coming to an end this year. Meanwhile, industries will continue to feel the sometimes negative effects of China's entry into the WTO.

The ministry will also be in focus as China becomes a larger trading partner in the world and as it faces rising trade frictions from some developed countries such as the United States, Li said.

For example, China has felt the brunt of world trade protectionism. The country was targeted by 50 anti-dumping and safeguard cases last year involving a total value of US$1.85 billion in exports. It is a situation Bo has never handled, Li said.

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