China's executive reshuffle expands to auto industry

BEIJING - China's two state-owned automakers will replace their top executives, part of President Xi Jinping's effort to tighten his grip on sectors ensnared in anti-graft investigations.

Senior managers at FAW Group were stunned when an official from the Communist Party announced the automaker's new chairman at an emergency meeting Thursday. They are now going to report to Xu Ping, who had previously led rival Dongfeng Motor.

Xu had started out at Second Automotive Works, Dongfeng's predecessor, and remained there after it became Dongfeng. He cut his teeth as an engineer and eventually became chairman, a position he held for five years. While both Dongfeng and FAW are state-owned, they compete against each other in manufacturing and sales.

In mid-March, Xu Jianyi, then chairman of FAW, became a target of a graft probe by the Communist Party. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection accused Xu of "serious violations of party discipline and law," leaving his post empty. The personnel shake-up put many at the company on edge, as they brace for a major shakeout.

Meanwhile, Dongfeng announced Wednesday that it will bring on Zhu Yanfeng, former FAW chairman and current vice party secretary of Jilin Province, as its next chairman. Top executives at China's state-owned automakers have usually picked from career employees at the companies, making the latest appointments unusual.

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