China's top legislature on Friday approved the cabinet nomination of Yang Jiechi, former ambassador to the United States
, as the country's new foreign minister.
Yang, 57, replaces Li Zhaoxing, 66, who has served as China's top diplomat since 2003.
China's cabinet ministers usually retire at the age of 65. Li, who has been dubbed the "poetic foreign minister" by the Chinese media because of his fondness for poetry, was very popular. He is already a year past the customary retirement age.
A veteran diplomat, Yang served in the Chinese embassy in the United States for nearly 13 years over different periods in the 1980s, 1990s and the beginning of this century.
He started his diplomatic career in 1975 in the Foreign Ministry and was appointed vice foreign minister in 1998. In December 2000, he succeeded Li as ambassador to the United States, a post Li had held since 1998.
Shortly after becoming ambassador, Yang worked to ease the tensions between the two countries following a mid-air collision between a U.S. EP-3 spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet off the coast of Hainan Island in the South China Sea.
During his term in the United States, he was said to be able to balance the need to firmly defend China's national interests while maintaining smooth and stable ties with the United States.
He also won acclaim for his efforts to promote China-U.S. cooperation in fighting terrorism, improving trade ties and enhancing exchanges in law enforcement, military affairs and on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue.
Back in Beijing, Yang was vice foreign minister mainly in charge of Latin American affairs and foreign-related affairs involving Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.
He was also seen frequently receiving high-ranking U.S. officials in Beijing. Last November, Yang co-chaired the third China-U.S. strategic dialogue in Beijing with U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns.
"He is an outstanding diplomat, and also an affable, modest person," a diplomat close to Yang said.
In the introduction provided to the lawmakers, Yang, a Shanghai native, was described as "down to earth", "dedicated", "prudent" and a man with a "high sense of responsibility".
A fluent English speaker, Yang studied at the London School of Economics and Political Science from 1973 to 1975.
He is also an alternate member of the 16th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.
Also on Friday, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) approved the nomination of Wan Gang, a non-Communist party member, as the country's new minister of science and technology.
Wan, a member of the China Zhi Gong (Public Interest) Party, replaces 65-year-old Xu Guanhua, becoming the only current non-Communist Party minister in China's State Council.
Wan is vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Zhi Gong Party, a non-Communist political party with more than 15,600 members.
Founded in 1925, the China Zhi Gong Party is mainly composed of returned overseas Chinese, relatives of overseas Chinese, and noted figures and scholars who have overseas ties.
Political observers said Wan's appointment was an important political move after President Hu Jintao urged other political parties to play an active role in pushing the country's reforms and opening-up.
A former automobile engineer at the Audi Corporation in Germany, Wan, born in Shanghai in August 1952, was president of Shanghai's Tongji University before his new appointment.
He began to work at the research and development department of the German Audi Corporation in 1991, after graduating with honors from Clausthal Technical University in Germany with a Ph.D degree in Mechanical Engineering.
In 1996, he was promoted to technical manager in the production and technology division, and took charge of information manufacturing technology as well as management.
Wan's leadership and contributions to many technological innovations are said to have helped the company achieve outstanding financial results.
At the end of 2000, Wan returned home on the invitation of the Ministry of Science and Technology and was appointed chief scientist and group leader of a key national electric vehicle project.
In 2002, he worked as Assistant President of Tongji and was promoted to president of the university in July 2004.
The top legislature also approved the nomination of Xu Shaoshi, 55, as the Minister of Land and Resources, replacing Sun Wensheng.
Chen Lei, born in June 1954, was appointed minister of water resources, replacing Wang Shucheng.
Both Sun and Wang have reached retirement age.