Top Chinese officials moved to new posts

Reshuffles come ahead of ruling Communist Party congress next year

HONG KONG • The son of former Chinese premier Li Peng is tipped to become the new Communist Party boss at the regulator of the country's state-owned enterprises, a Hong Kong newspaper has reported.

Quoting sources in Shanxi and Beijing, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that Mr Li Xiaopeng, 56, was likely to take over as party chief of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (Sasac).

The commission's current party chief Zhang Yi, 65, has reached retirement age, said the SCMP.

Mr Li Xiaopeng is now the governor of coal-rich Shanxi province.

Once Mr Li Xiaopeng's appointment to Sasac is confirmed, it would be a rare instance of a party chief and governor of the same province being replaced at the same time.

Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday that Mr Li Xiaopeng's boss, Shanxi's party chief Wang Rulin, will also be leaving his post.

Mr Lou Yangsheng, 56, Shanxi deputy party boss, would likely become the province's governor. Mr Lou was posted to Shanxi after several top leaders of the province were detained in graft probes, reported the SCMP.

He worked alongside Mr Xi Jinping in Zhejiang province from 2002 to 2007. President Xi was Zhejiang's party boss during that period.

Shanxi province was one of the "disaster zones" targeted by President Xi's anti-graft campaign and was described as suffering from a "landslide of corruption", according to the SCMP. It is also the home of disgraced official Ling Jihua, who was a former aide to ex-president Hu Jintao.

Hong Kong-based veteran China watcher Johnny Lau told the SCMP that Mr Li Xiaopeng's transfer, if confirmed, did not necessarily mean a resurgence in the political influence of Mr Li Peng's family, because Sasac's clout had declined.

Mr Li Peng was acting premier and then premier from 1987 to 1998 and was understood to have a strong power base in the state sector. Ms Li Xiaolin, Mr Li Xiaopeng's sister, has spent more than two decades serving in senior executive positions in state-owned power corporations.

In the run-up to the Communist Party's 19th National Congress, scheduled to be held in autumn next year, China has recently announced a flurry of high-ranking personnel changes.

A number of officials who worked with President Xi previously have been promoted in recent years. One of them is Mr Xu Lin, who will be succeeding Mr Lu Wei as director of the Cyberspace Administration of China.

Mr Xu worked directly under Mr Xi when the latter was the party secretary of Shanghai. He was Shanghai's publicity chief before he was appointed Mr Lu's deputy in July last year.

Mr Lu, also seen as a close ally of Mr Xi, was listed by Time magazine in 2015 as one of the world's 100 most influential people.

Professor Willy Lam, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told the New York Times the fact Mr Lu had retained his title as the deputy head of China's propaganda department meant it was not clear whether his departure from the Cyberspace Administration was a demotion.

"He might end up getting a promotion in another area of the bureaucracy," he said.

"It's not uncommon for these important positions to be moved around frequently."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2016, with the headline 'Top Chinese officials moved to new posts'. Print Edition | Subscribe