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Non-Party Minister in Spotlight
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As China's first non-Communist Party minister in more than three decades, Wan Gang's first news briefing on climate change yesterday was a media highlight.

Wan, a member of the China Zhi Gong (Public Interest) Party - a small organization with 15,600 members - was appointed science minister in April by the State Council.

The previous non-Communist minister was Fu Zuoyi, a former Kuomintang general, who was minister of water resources until 1972.

"The biggest challenge for me is the change from a scientist and engineer to an executive officer," Wan said, adding that his appointment was an "important" step in the development of China's political democracy.

"It's a pity that that I cannot continue to work on automobile research and development," a smiling Wan told reporters.

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 the cabinet.

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.

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.

He is also vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Zhi Gong Party, which was founded in 1925 and mainly composed of returned overseas Chinese, relatives of overseas Chinese, and noted figures and scholars who have overseas ties.

(Xinhua News Agency June 15, 2007)

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