China is fast becoming the linchpin for General Motors’ global operations, with Tim Lee, president-GM International Operations based in Shanghai, taking on the dual role of GM’s vice president-global manufacturing, effective immediately.

As president of GMIO, Lee continues to oversee sales and marketing and other functions in China, Russia and South Korea, which account for 40% of GM’s global vehicle sales. He also heads manufacturing operations for 60 plants located in 15 countries within the three regions.

Lee now takes on responsibility for GM manufacturing operations in North America, South America and Europe as well.

“Leading a portfolio that includes more than 60 plants in 15 countries gives Tim (Lee) a terrific vantage point for this job,” GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson says in a statement today.“His extensive manufacturing experience coupled with this alignment will help deliver great, quality vehicles that keep pace with GM’s global growth.”

Prior to the change, much of GM’s global manufacturing responsibility came under 35-year veteran Diana Tremblay, who served as global chief manufacturing officer and vice president-manufacturing and labor relations.

Tremblay becomes North America vice president-manufacturing, reporting to Lee.

“Our realignment allows Diana to focus her considerable talents and experience exclusively on North America – our single greatest manufacturing region,” Akerson says. “Diana’s work toward greater North American manufacturing flexibility has helped drive GM’s recent progress of renewed plant investments and job creation.”

Lee has been president of GMIO since December 2009, taking over for Nick Reilly, who was appointed president of GM Europe. Reilly has since retired.

Lee also is chairman of Shanghai General Motors, a joint venture with Shanghai Automotive Industry. Additionally, he serves as chairman of GM Korea.

The statement announcing Lee’s latest appointment notes 70% of GM vehicles are built outside of the U.S.