Across the Negotiating Table: A Who's Who of China's Trade Team
(Bloomberg) -- Sign up for our new China newsletter, a weekly dispatch on where China stands now and where it's going next.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are facing off against a team of Chinese negotiators this week in Beijing, in an attempt to resolve the trade war between the two nations.
China’s team is led by Vice Premier Liu He, a heavy-hitter tasked with solving many of President Xi Jinping’s most pressing economic and financial problems. Lining up at the negotiating table at the Diaoyutai state guesthouse alongside him were officials ranging from the trade minister to the central bank governor. Here’s a rundown, not necessarily in order of rank.
Zhong Shan, who has said U.S. tariffs won’t cause China to capitulate to the U.S., has been the nation’s Commerce Minister since February 2017. The Ministry of Commerce can be seen as the counterpart to both the U.S. Department of Commerce and the office of the Trade Representative.
Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen is known as a feisty negotiator who led mid-level talks between the nations in August last year in Washington. He’s a veteran trade bureaucrat and fluent English speaker.
Long-serving technocrat Yi Gang became head of the central bank in March 2018, when he replaced Zhou Xiaochuan at the helm of the People’s Bank of China. Yi is in the trade talks partly to follow a tradition set during the now-defunct Strategic and Economic Dialogue between the two governments, when the Federal Reserve was involved, and partly to represent regulators of China’s financial sector, where the U.S. is pushing for more opening up. Yi’s institution also oversees China’s currency, which often crops up as a point of contention in the trade dispute.
Ning serves as the head of China’s National Bureau of Statistics, but he also has a dual identity as the deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, the state economic planner that has a say in almost everything ranging from import quotas and approval of big infrastructure projects. He is using the second title in the trade talks.
Before being appointed as a ministerial-level official at the State Council, China’s cabinet, Ding had stints as head of both the nation’s sovereign wealth fund and its top investment bank. As Vice Premier, Liu is Ding’s boss in the cabinet. The duo also worked together to lead the Financial Stability and Development Committee which also oversees the reforms in the financial sector.
Liao is the Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Finance, which is designated to lead the task of deciding on tariffs. Liao, a graduate from the prestigious Peking University and once a folk singer in college, has served as Liu’s aide at the Central Leading Office for Financial and Economic Affairs.
Luo is vice minister of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the lead agency behind the Made in China 2025 plan. It also regulates telecommunications, including the granting of licences to virtual private network applications.
Serving as a deputy at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Han was also Liu’s aide. The involvement of his agency in the trade talks is key, as the purchase of U.S. agriculture products has been a bargaining chip.
Zheng is a vice minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His career in the ministry has handed him plenty of experience of dealing with the U.S., starting from a role as a low-level official at the Chinese Embassy to the U.S. He now oversees North American relations.
Secretary General of the National Development and Reform Commission, Cong oversees policy research, planning and reform at the agency. He is also one of its spokespeople, and his presence indicates the prominent role of the NDRC.
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.