And yet, in the selection of He as top economic planner, some political observers saw a throwback to a retrograde model of wasteful spending and runaway borrowing that many policymakers in the party blame for dragging down China's economy.
As the No. 2 party official, He oversaw a building spree in the coastal city of Tianjin that was envisioned to be a new financial hub to rival Manhattan but now sits unoccupied, said Victor Shih, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego.
"He Lifeng presided over the largest ghost city in China and built even more empty office towers in it," Shih said. "His reform credentials are questionable to say the least."
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