Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Leadership Change at China's Ag Ministry

addendum: Tang Renjian was appointed Minister of Agriculture December 26, 2020.

China's Minister of Agriculture mostly disappeared from the Ministry's web site at the end of November. While Han Changfu remains Minister of Agriculture for the time being, his more important position of communist party secretary has been handed over to Tang Renjian in a minor shake-up of personnel in Beijing. 

A one-sentence posting on the Ministry's web site said as of December 1 the communist party central committee had decided that Comrade Tang Renjian serves as member and office director of the Central Rural Work Committee and Party secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, and that Comrade Han Changfu no longer serves in those positions. 

In: Tang Renjian
Out: Han Chanfu

During the last 3 weeks Han Changfu no longer appeared in any news stories on the ag ministry web site, nor did he appear for meetings with visiting dignitaries. The site still lists him as Minister, however. Tang Renjian was featured only in two sessions where he instructed the Ministry's party organization on priorities in rural work and on an inspection tour in Hubei Province. On each occasion Tang urged listeners to study the remarks of Xi Jinping on rural policy.

Tang Renjian, 58 years old and a native of Chongqing, was most recently governor of Gansu Province since 2017. He now replaces the 66-year-old Han Changfu who has served as Minister of Agriculture since 2009 and was head of the central rural work group for the last 2 years. 

Tang graduated from the Southwest University of Finance and Economics in 1983 and rose through the ranks of the Sichuan government. Tang reportedly studied for a doctorate in economics while he was employed and held the title of "senior economist." He is an adjunct professor at Southwest University of Finance and Economics and at China Agricultural University. 

His big break came in a 1998 posting to the Office of the Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs, where he became supervisor. He held top posts in the Guangxi provincial communist party before returning to the Office of the Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs as Deputy Director in 2016 where he succeeded Chen Xiwen in directing rural policy work. Tang has reportedly been a key assistant to two powerful men in Xi Jinping's orbit: Liu He and Wang Yang. 

Tang has been involved in a number of rural policy and poverty alleviation working groups, including the drafting of the 2004 "Document No. 1" that launched China's first program of rural subsidies and cancellation of agricultural taxes. His work has included "Respond to the Challenge of Entering WTO with the Strategy of Unbalanced Competition," "Developing 'Company Agriculture' and Agricultural Companies," "Nurturing Rural Informal Financial Organizations," and "Establishing Agriculture's Tax-Free Era." 

Another rural policy wonk, 57-year-old Han Jun, has also been transferred from his posts as vice minister of agriculture and deputy party secretary where he had served since 2018. Han Jun is now deputy governor and acting governor of Jilin province.

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