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Xi positions key ally at center stage of China's foreign policy

Chinese President Xi Jinping has enlisted a key ally, Vice President Wang Qishan, in the Foreign Affairs Commission, the Communist Party's top diplomatic policymaking body, as China and the U.S. enter a second round of critical trade talks in Washington, The Nikkei Asian Review reported May 17.

Xi, who heads the commission, in his speech at the May 15 inaugural meeting of the policymaking body, called for "enhancing the centralized and unified leadership of the [Communist Party] Central Committee over foreign affairs and opening up new prospects of major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics," Xinhua News Agency reported.

The commission, created during a central government revamp in March gives Wang an official role in the party as well as the state. With Premier Li Keqiang's influence waning, Wang is seen to take center stage in Chinese foreign policy, the Nikkei reported.

Xi said the Foreign Affairs Commission, "should play a role in policy-making, discussion and coordination, advance the innovation of diplomatic theories and practices and provide strong guidance for foreign affairs to make new achievements."

Wang's enlistment comes as the U.S. and China are reportedly working on a deal that will ease U.S. sanctions on embattled Chinese firm ZTE Corp. in return for Beijing holding off on imposing tariffs on U.S. agricultural products.

A vice premier under former Chinese President Hu Jintao, Wang was a point person for China-U.S. relations during the 2008 global financial crisis. He is known for his extensive U.S. contacts, said the Nikkei report.

In a speech before U.S. business leaders and former officials at a May 15 forum in Beijing, Wang stressed the importance of settling differences through dialogue and the benefit of sound economic and trade ties between the two countries.