China's first non-Communist party minister in decades, Wan Gang, said in Beijing on Thursday that his appointment was an "important" step in the development of China's political democracy.
Wan, a member of the China Zhi Gong (Public Interest) Party, was appointed minister of science and technology in April by the parliament, seen by many observers as a significant move by Communist Party of China (CPC) to improve multi-party cooperation.
"The biggest challenge for me is the change from a scientist, and engineer to an executive officer," Wan said in his press debut since.
A former automobile engineer at the Audi Corporation in Germany, Wan, born in August 1952, served as president of Shanghai's Tongji University before being entering cabinet.
He is also 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.
Wan said he had accumulated some experience in practicing multi-party cooperation, because "even when I was president of Tongji University, I was the one of the very few non-CPC member presidents of elite Chinese universities."
In the 1950s, a number of non-Communist members were appointed ministers in the country's cabinet, but they were soon dismissed during the "anti-rightist" movement.
In recent years, the CPC Central Committee has issued a series of directives and recommendations to promote non-CPC members to political positions.
"It's a pity that that I cannot continue to work on automobile research and development," a smiling Wan told reporters.
"I spent much time on scientific research and development even when I served as university president. But (as a minister), I will certainly put most of my energy into the task my country assigned to me."
Having lived abroad for many years, Wan said he is keen to improve cooperation and exchanges between China and foreign countries in science and technology.
"Through such activities, the world can better know China's scientific and technological circles, and what the Chinese government and people are doing," Wan said.