Respected China vice-premier tipped to head anti-graft effort

Wed Nov 14, 2012 5:59am EST
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By Sui-Lee Wee and John Ruwitch

BEIJING (Reuters) - One of China's most senior financial officials is likely to lead the fight against corruption, a top priority in the world's second-biggest economy, following his appointment to a key council at the end of the Communist Party's 18th congress on Wednesday.

Known as "the chief firefighter", Wang Qishan, 64, is currently the vice-premier in charge of economic affairs, under Premier Wen Jiabao.

Wang, an experienced trade negotiator and former banker, sorted out a debt crisis in southern Guangdong province where he was vice governor in the late 1990s. Later, he replaced the sacked Beijing mayor after a cover-up of the deadly SARS virus in 2003.

Wang is now a shoo-in for the elite standing committee, the highest level of decision-making in China, after being elected to the party's Central Committee and its graft-battling Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

The move comes on the eve of the unveiling of China's new top leadership team that will guide the world's most populous nation in the coming five years as it deals with rising social unrest and global and domestic economic uncertainty.

"The bad news is that we are going to lose one of the most capable economic affairs managers in the country," said Bo Zhiyue, a Chinese politics expert at the National University of Singapore.

"The good news is that the new Chinese leadership is really interested in doing something about corruption," he added. "With the nickname 'firefighter', I think he would be one of the most capable leaders of the Politburo Standing Committee."

A former head of China Construction Bank, Wang is an experienced negotiator who has led finance and trade negotiations as well as the Strategic and Economic Dialogue with the United States, and is a favorite of foreign investors.   Continued...

(From L to R) Standing Committee of the Political Bureau member He Guoqiang, China's Vice President Xi Jinping, top political advisor Jia Qinglin and chairman of the Standing Committee of National People's Congress Wu Bangguo attend the closing session of 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, November 14, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Lee