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Vice-Premier He Lifeng shown to be China’s point man on economic ties, reaching trade agreement with Germany

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Vice-Premier He Lifeng has become China’s point man on economic ties with multiple developed economies and he covers a bigger footprint on trade than his predecessor Liu He.

Before that, He, one of President Xi Jinping’s most trusted confidants, was referred to as the “lead person” in similar dialogues with the United States, European Union and France.

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US-China relations depend on strong economic ties, says US commerce chief during talks in Beijing

US-China relations depend on strong economic ties, says US commerce chief during talks in Beijing

It effectively puts trade involving a large chunk of developed economies under He, who was named one of four-vice premiers in China’s State Council in March.

His remit is broader than that of his predecessor Liu, who President Xi described as “very important to me” when speaking to the the former US national security adviser Thomas Donilon in 2013.

As vice-premier between 2018 and 2023, Liu was in charge of trade dialogues with the US, EU and Germany, while trade ties with France and Britain were overseen by former vice-premier Hu Chunhua.

It is not clear who Beijing’s point man with Britain’s economic officials will now be because Beijing and London have not announced the resumption of their economic dialogue, which was halted because of Covid-19 disruptions and a lack of will from either side to boost ties amid geopolitical tensions.

China-EU dialogue marks critical step in ‘rebalancing’ trade relationship

He, who was born in Guangdong, is believed to have become acquainted with Xi in the mid-1980s when they both worked in the coastal city of Xiamen, Fujian.

He is believed to wield great influence among Beijing’s economic hands. The South China Morning Post reported that in April He was appointed director of the general office of the Central Financial and Economic Affairs Commission, the party’s highest policy coordination body on economic affairs.
The outgoing minister of finance, Liu Kun, is a former classmate of He, according to public records. Liu will be succeeded by Lan Foan, who worked closely with Liu in the 1990s and 2000s on financial affairs in Guangdong, the home province of He, Liu and Lan.

Xie Maosong, a senior researcher at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University said appointing He to handle all major economic and financial communication roles could help Beijing better handle its trade and investment relations with the developed world.

“It makes more sense for Beijing to centralise the role to He Lifeng as he is facing a better coordinated economic bloc, led by the US. He also has lots of administrative and negotiation experience to take on the job,” Xie said.

Beijing does not officially announce the distribution of portfolios among its vice-premiers, which can only be publicly confirmed by the events they attend and the speeches they deliver.

Official records show that while He is covering a broader range of trade issues than Liu He, unlike Liu he does not take responsibility for technology and manufacturing which have been assumed by Vice-Premiers Ding Xuexiang and Zhang Guoqing, respectively.

On September 22, He was named Beijing’s representative on newly established China-US joint working groups on finance and the economy with US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on the American side.

Citing people briefed on the matter, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that China and the US were discussing trips to Washington by He Lifeng and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi to pave the way for a summit between Xi and US President Joe Biden.

He Lifeng met Yellen and the US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo in Beijing in July and August respectively.

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Chinese investors offloading overseas properties

Chinese investors offloading overseas properties

He struck a more amicable tone when he met French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire in late July, saying he hoped France could “stabilise the tone” of EU-China relations, and promised China was willing to deepen cooperation with France in traditional areas such as finance as well as in science and technological innovation.

Article was originally published from here

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