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China Government Shakeup Approved

February 26, 1998

BEIJING (AP) _ China’s most powerful communists agreed Thursday to shake up the government through personnel changes and reforms expected to pare down ministries.

Details were not released, but the shakeup was expected to include the promotion of China’s top economic official, Vice Premier Zhu Rongji, to premier.

Plans also include merging and abolishing some ministries and spinning others off into holding companies to better tailor the government to the needs of a market-based economy, Chinese and foreign diplomatic sources said.

Meeting against a backdrop of red flags and the communist hammer and sickle emblem, 341 members of the Communist Party’s policy-setting Central Committee approved the plans at a two-day, closed-door session that ended Thursday, state-run television reported.

The plans will be forwarded to the National People’s Congress, the Chinese legislature that opens its annual session March 5. The legislature usually rubber-stamps decisions taken by the Communist Party, and the planned government shakeup will almost certainly be approved.

Xinhua, the state-run news agency, said administrative changes were necessary for ``deepening reforms of the economic system″ and to make government more efficient, staffed with ``high-quality, specialized″ civil servants.

Many of the often overstaffed ministries have overlapping functions. Some have had less and less to do as China switched over the past two decades from a centrally planned to a capitalist-style market economy.

The system encourages corruption, waste and red tape that frustrates reforms and economic dynamism and encourages bureaucrats to interfere in business.

How far and fast the reforms will go is unclear. Chinese sources and foreign diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, say powerful bureaucrats are lobbying hard to save their jobs from the ax.

Li, who must by law step down after two five-year terms as premier, will likely be named head of the legislature.

Update hourly