Young ministers take control of China's new environmental, natural resource ministries

Heilongjiang governor Lu Hao (left) will lead the newly-formed Ministry of Natural Resources, while environment minister Li Ganjie will head the new Ministry of Ecological Environment. PHOTOS: REUTERS

BEIJING - Two young ministers have been handed the reins of two of Beijing's new ministries that have sweeping powers over the country's environment and natural resources.

Heilongjiang governor Lu Hao, 50, will lead the newly-formed Ministry of Natural Resources, while environment minister Li Ganjie, 53, will take on an expanded portfolio heading the new Ministry of Ecological Environment.

Both men were elected on Monday (March 19) by lawmakers from the National People's Congress (NPC), at a meeting held at the Great Hall of the People.

Mr Lu is seen as a rising political star. He became the youngest vice-mayor of Beijing in 2003 at the age of 35, and went on to become China's youngest minister-level official when he was appointed first secretary of the Communist Youth League (CYL) at the age of 41.

The CYL, or tuanpai, is a powerful faction within the Communist Party.

Mr Lu became governor of the northern-most Heilongjiang province in 2013.

The new Ministry of Natural Resources that he heads will have control over China's grasslands, forests, wetlands, water and maritime resources, and urban and township planning.

It replaces the Ministry of Land and Resources, State Oceanic Administration and the national surveying and mapping bureau.

Mr Li, who previously headed the Ministry for Environmental Protection, was elected to head the Ministry of Ecological Environment, which will absorb his former ministry.

His ministry will also be responsible for major environmental protection responsibilities, including climate change and emission reduction policies, agricultural pollution and marine conservation. These are currently scattered across various government agencies and ministries.

The two new ministries were part of a slate of reforms meant to reorganise government departments to make them more efficient and reduce policymaking overlaps.

These changes were passed by NPC lawmakers last Saturday.

Both ministries will be at the forefront of China's efforts to protect its environment and curb pollution, a "critical battle" outlined by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who envisions a clean environment as a key part of a prosperous China.

Dr Lin Boqiang, an energy expert from Xiamen University, said the appointment of both men, considered young politicians by China's standards, underscores the faith the central leadership had in them.

"In the next five to 10 years, the environment will be one of the most important focuses for the government," said Dr Lin.

"Their challenge in heading these new ministries will lie in how they will be able to integrate the wide-ranging duties of their ministries and manage the environment efficiently."

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