Lan Fo’an, a former provincial governor and veteran official, is expected to be appointed as the new finance minister of China in the midst of a reshuffle of top officials. The current party chief at the Ministry of Finance, Liu Kun, is expected to leave his position. The elevation of Lan, aged 61, signals a potential end to President Xi Jinping’s restructuring of his economic policy team. This year has seen changes in leadership in other top economic policymaking bodies as well. Lan will face the challenging task of jumpstarting China’s economy, which has been suffering from local government debt and real estate defaults, as well as the lackluster impact of Covid-19 restrictions being lifted.
However, sources close to the finance ministry have stated that Lan may not have much freedom to design policy initiatives independently, as decision-making has become highly centralized. This indicates a trend towards increased centralization and reduced transparency under President Xi’s leadership. Lan’s selection for the position may be attributed to his connection with Liu, as the two worked together in Guangdong in the 2000s. Lan is seen as a candidate who possesses both expertise in finance and the trust of top leadership, which are essential qualities for advancement in the current political climate.
In addition to the changing leadership in economic ministries, other significant changes have occurred within the Chinese government this year. Foreign Minister Qin Gang has been removed from his position, and US officials believe that Defense Minister Li Shangfu has been stripped of his responsibilities. These developments further contribute to the perception that power is becoming more consolidated and less transparent under President Xi’s administration. Lan Fo’an’s appointment comes at a critical time for China’s economy and will require navigating complex challenges and strict centralized decision-making.