Who is Li Qiang, the close Xi ally who has been named China’s new premier?

Xi Jinping, 69, is installing a number of loyalists in key posts as he further consolidates power after being unanimously elected president for an unprecedented third term on Friday, Reuters reported. Li, who has been a staunch Xi loyalist, replaces outgoing Premier Li Keqiang, Xi Jinping’s second-in-command since 2013. whose power has steadily declined with Xi centralizes all authority to himself.

Widely perceived as pragmatic and business-friendly, 63-year-old Li Qiang faces the daunting task of supporting China’s uneven post-pandemic economic recovery. With his close relationship with President Xi, he is expected to be given greater leeway to operate while remaining loyal to his longtime party patron, a Reuters report proposed.

Li was put on track to become prime minister in October 2022 when he was named number two on the Politburo Standing Committee during the twice-a-year term. Congress of the Communist Party.

A career bureaucrat

While Li Qiang has been in public service almost all his life, he will be the first premier since the founding of the People’s Republic who has never previously served in the central government, Reuters reported. A career bureaucrat, Li joined the Communist Party in 1983 at the age of 24 and became the prefectural-level Party Secretary of Wenzhou City when he was 43.

In 2004, Li became general secretary of the Zhejiang Provincial Party Committee and was given a seat on its Standing Committee the next year, serving under then Zhejiang Party Secretary Xi Jinping. He was Xi’s de-facto chief of staff from 2004 to 2007, a fact that experts have cited as contributing to his political rise.

In 2013, Li would rise to the position of governor of Zhejiang, a position he would hold until 2016. During his time as governor, Li would develop a reputation for being pro-business. A project he started which sought to create small towns that have a “pro-business climate” and “good physical environment” was so well received that it would gain Xi Jinping’s backing and would also be expanded to other parts of China.

From 2016, Li would serve as Party Secretary of Jiangsu Province for a short time before being appointed Party Secretary of Shanghai. He was also appointed a member of the CCP’s Politburo in the same year, a sign of his national rise.

Responsible for Shanghai: praise and criticism

During his time in charge of Shanghai, Li was praised for his pro-business outlook, which invited significant foreign investment into the city. During his reign, Tesla built its first gigafactory outside the US in the city. Tesla has sole ownership of this factory and became the first foreign car manufacturer in China to own its entire factory, a CNN says the report.

In 2019, Li opened the Shanghai Stock Exchange STAR Market. Pronounced as Shanghai is equivalent to the USA’s NASDAQ, Chinese state media have stated that their goal is to give Chinese science and technology companies greater access to capital markets.

Li also introduced popular policies such as lowering the threshold for internal migrants to obtain residency and establishing five new townships to ease Shanghai’s land shortage.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic and China’s zero covid policy was economically deeply damaging to Shanghai, and Li’s handling of the situation invited considerable criticism. He supervised one shocking lockdown which brought the bustling city to a standstill and left the citizens angry and frustrated with Li.

But reports have since emerged showing that Li is far more open to Western vaccines as well as more lax Covid norms. Li was instrumental in pushing for China’s unexpectedly abrupt end to its zero-COVID policy late last year, Reuters reported this month.

A difficult task ahead

People who have interacted with Li say they found him practical, an efficient bureaucratic operator and supportive of the private sector, Reuters reported. Those credentials will be put to the test as Li faces some massive challenges ahead.

According to Reuters, China’s economy grew just 3 percent last year, and on the opening day of parliament, Beijing set a modest 2023 growth target of about 5 percent, its lowest target in nearly three decades. Two years of the country focusing on “Covid containment” has led to a shattering of consumer confidence that will be difficult to rebuild.

Add to that steep crackdowns and regulatory hurdles against some of China’s most successful private companies such as Ali BabaLi has been working outside.

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