Close ally of Xi Jinping: Li Quiang becomes China’s new prime minister


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Close ally of Xi Jinping
Li Quiang becomes China’s new prime minister

Li Qiang is the new Premier of China. The former party secretary in Shanghai has a reputation as a business-friendly pragmatist and is considered a close confidant of President Xi Jinping. He uses the People’s Congress to further expand his power.

The Chinese People’s Congress has elected Li Qiang as China’s new prime minister. As expected, the almost 3,000 hand-picked delegates voted overwhelmingly for the 63-year-old at their current annual meeting in the Great Hall of the People. Li Qiang succeeds Li Keqiang, who is retiring after ten years.

The office is particularly important for the economy. Because while the president in China is responsible for the big picture, concrete economic planning is traditionally more the responsibility of the prime minister. But this division has suffered greatly under Xi Jinping. He has left Li Keqiang much less leeway and – as in other areas – has concentrated power in his own hands.

While the former premier belonged to a different political camp, Li Qiang is considered a close confidant of the president, who appointed him a senior member of the Politburo last October. As early as 2007, he worked directly under Xi Jinping for the first time, when he was still party leader of the important province of Zhejiang.

More pragmatist than ideologue

Li Qiang can look back on a long career, which he spent primarily on the prosperous east coast of China, where he was considered a pragmatist. As party secretary in Shanghai, he championed the interests of business and at the same time promoted foreign investment. During his tenure, Tesla built a large factory in the city. “He doesn’t talk so much about ideology, but a little more about how to do things,” said Nis Grünberg from the China Institute Merics in Berlin.

Under the supervision of Li Qiang, Shanghai initially dealt with the virus less restrictively than many other regions of China during the corona pandemic. However, because the metropolis could not get a handle on an outbreak in spring 2022, the city was finally put into a strict lockdown for two months. This apparently did not harm Li Qiang politically.

Xi Jinping had already been confirmed by the People’s Congress for an unusual third term as president on Friday. At the party conference in October, the 69-year-old had already ignored the previous age and term of office restrictions and had a permanent leadership role anchored in the party constitution. With his sole rule, he ties in with the founder of the state and revolutionary Mao Tsetung, who, however, had brought chaos to the country

The week-long annual conference, which lasts until Monday, is the scene of the largest government reshuffle in ten years, in which mainly close confidants of Xi Jinping are promoted.

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