EXCLUSIVE: China’s former economic czar still has a big seat at the table, quietly meets Western delegation: sources

A trusted aide to President Xi Jinping — retired Vice Premier Liu He — has retained his post as director of a key economic policymaking office under Xi, sources told the Post.

Although Liu is out of the public limelight, the 71-year-old is a go-to person for high-level foreign delegations visiting Beijing. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and some European leaders reportedly sought meetings with him during trips to China — meetings that Beijing did not publicize.

The continued political influence of Liu, a respected Harvard-educated official known for his firm grasp of economic and financial matters, is of interest to China watchers as China faces one of the most critical points in its development. There has been a post-pandemic economic recovery Uneven, brittle and slower than expectedTroubled by asset and debt crises at home and geopolitical tensions abroad.
China’s Vice Premier Liu He, seen here in April 2019, speaks with former US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington. Photo: Bloomberg

Although a new crop of senior officials has taken charge of China’s economy, there is no indication that Liu is looking to fully retire, the sources said.

Liu, who headed the most important Economic and Financial Bureau during Xi’s second term, renounced all government posts and resigned from the Communist Party’s powerful Politburo. At 71, he is past the unwritten retirement age for top party officials.

But unlike other retired government officials, Liu is said to have retained his previous oversight of the Office of the Central Financial and Economic Affairs Commission.

The party structure was formed in 2018 on the basis of the former Central Finance and Economic Affairs Front Committee. Under Xi’s leadership, the commission convened its first meeting in May, half a year after China’s leadership reshuffle. 20th Party Congress. Xi presided over the meeting and said the commission „has great responsibilities” and must „continue to play its role in formulating key economic guidelines.”

According to a report by Xinhua, the commission held its second meeting of the year on July 20 to discuss farmland protection and other agriculture-related issues. The Central Rural Work Front Committee – another party organ responsible for rural and agricultural policies – is incorporated into this commission, which is very powerful.

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The restructuring puts some US$58 trillion of China’s financial assets firmly within the Party’s purview

Sources said Liu also sat in on other relevant economic and financial meetings, although not as a vice premier or Politburo member. Beijing rarely publicizes the organization and day-to-day operations of party organs, which often hold the real decision-making power in Chinese politics.

The Post reported Especially in June Liu still enjoys influence in economic and financial matters and is regularly consulted by the president. The Post also reported that Liu had retired from the commission, but sources now say otherwise. It is unclear when he will hand over the baton to He Lifeng, the current vice-premier.

State media’s last coverage of Liu dates back to March, when Liu and other senior officials nearing retirement age officially stepped down from their government posts during China’s parliamentary session.

Liu retains some form of influence and is welcomed by some groups inside and outside the country. Many see him as a reliable and experienced senior who knows how to handle crises. Foreign businesses see Liu as a market reformer with a good understanding of the global economy.

Allowing Liu to continue to serve in such roles also shows how Xi is less bound by party traditions and customs.

However, the arrangement raises questions about how senior economic officials divide their work, especially as China faces complex and difficult challenges to continue growing its economy. Chinese watchers are looking forward to when the party might hold its third plenum — when the leadership historically lays out policy direction and sets priorities.

As a prominent economist, Liu helped draft a key reform document in 2013 that outlined dozens of tasks for the market-oriented restructuring of China’s economy. Calls for economic reforms to break growth barriers and find a sustainable growth path have emerged ahead of a plenum later this year.

Liu’s successor, He Lifeng, who was promoted to the Politburo at the 20th Party Congress and became vice premier in March, is becoming China’s new face to the world on economic and financial matters. He heads the powerful office of the Lifeng Central Financial Commission Conducts trade negotiations With the United States and the European Union.

Vice Premier He Lifeng presented himself as China’s key figure in economic relations

As part of a major reshuffle of government and party institutions in March, the Central Finance Commission was set up under the ruling party to oversee the country’s financial affairs. The commission, expected to be chaired by Xi, has yet to hold its first meeting, but the office overseen by He Lifeng began its daily operations last month.

It is not clear how responsibilities are divided between the commissions under Liu He and He Lifeng.

Han Wenxiu, 60, is the executive deputy director of the Central Financial and Economic Affairs Commission Office and concurrently director of the Central Rural Work Leading Committee’s office, according to a state media report earlier this month.

Public records show that 54-year-old Vice Minister of Finance Liao Min is deputy director of the Office of the Economic Commission, while 55-year-old agriculture official Zhu Weidong was promoted to deputy director in the summer.

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