Before the beginning of the twentieth occasion congress this week, few folks outdoors China had heard of Li Qiang, not to mention that he was about to develop into China’s second strongest chief.
It was not till Sunday, when the Communist occasion chief of Shanghai adopted Xi Jinping on to the stage on the Nice Corridor of the Folks, that it grew to become apparent that the 63-year-old has been anointed because the second-ranking Politburo Standing Committee member. He’s additionally poised to develop into China’s subsequent premier on the annual legislative session in March when Li Keqiang steps down after two phrases.
Shanghai has traditionally been a breeding floor for prime nationwide leaders, however not like most of his predecessors who had been promoted to premiership, Li has no expertise as a vice premier. He additionally lacks the broad vary of regional administration expertise akin to main an impoverished province – a prerequisite for cadres wishing for prime jobs within the occasion.
Li’s popularity additionally took a beating over his dealing with of Shanghai’s two-month Covid lockdown, which sparked public anger, uncommon protests and battered town’s manufacturing and export-heavy economic system.
Earlier than the revelation on Sunday, China watchers had anticipated one other candidate, Wang Yang, a former vice premier, to ascend to the premiership. However there was one drawback, he’s from the rival China Youth League faction, which analysts say Xi sees as a menace to his rule.
Li’s appointment demonstrates that Xi locations loyalty and trustworthiness above all else, in line with analysts. Though Li has had expertise in regional financial administration, it was in the end this issue that prompted Xi to hand-pick him as his quantity two.
“He’s somebody near Xi and has his belief,” mentioned Prof Jean-Pierre Cabestan, senior researcher at Paris-based Asia Centre. “Xi is now surrounded by “sure” males and there’s no house for different rivals.”
Rise of the ‘New Zhijiang Military’
Li Qiang’s ties with the president return for nearly 20 years. When Xi was Zhejiang province’s prime occasion boss, Li was his chief of workers and his de facto prime private aide from 2004 till 2007, earlier than Xi left for Shanghai’s prime occasion publish. After Xi grew to become China’s chief, he promoted Li first to governor of Zhejiang after which to occasion secretary of Jiangsu province, offering him with the regional governing expertise and credentials he wanted for greater roles.
Li, along with Cai Qi and Li Xi who additionally ascended to the highly effective Standing Committee on Sunday, are a part of the so-called “New Zhijiang Military” who labored beneath Xi in Zhejiang province – the financial powerhouse simply south of Shanghai – throughout his rise to the highest (Zhijiang is a poetic title for the higher Zhejiang area.) Throughout that interval, Li accompanied Xi on many work journeys, edited his speeches and helped draft Xi’s coverage course.
Xi appointed Li the occasion chief of Shanghai in 2017, as a part of a strategic transfer to put his allies in key positions and convey his energy base into the higher ranks of the occasion.
As premier, Li would be the prime official accountable for reviving China’s ailing economic system, which has suffered beneath a stringent “zero-Covid” coverage for practically three years amid strained relations with the USA. Some hope that Li, a former occasion chief of his native Wenzhou – a personal enterprise hub in Zhejiang – will have the ability to steer China out of the financial troubles.
He’s anticipated to give attention to innovation and hi-tech industries, beneath Xi’s plan to develop these areas, as set out in his occasion congress work report. Li, who has presided over many international investments in Shanghai throughout his time period, has been described by those that have met him as having a pro-business and pragmatic work type.
As a trusted confidante of Xi, Li is prone to be given a freer rein to handle the economic system than his predecessor Li Keqiang, who’s seen by Xi as a menace. However analysts say Xi’s former aide is unlikely to ever defy him or over-assert himself.
“The premier’s function in relation to Xi has became that of an executor of his choices. What (Xi) wants is a powerful implementer, and in the course of the Shanghai lockdown, Li has confirmed himself as a loyal enforcer of Xi’s zero-Covid coverage,” mentioned Chen Daoyin, a former professor on the Shanghai College of Political Science and Regulation.
Li loyally carried out Xi’s order for “zero Covid”, even when Shanghai’s protracted Covid lockdown sparked public outrage and exacted heavy financial value. In the course of the two-month lockdown, Li informed cadres that they have to “unswervingly implement the ‘zero Covid’ job” in line with the spirit of Xi’s directions.
Willy Lam, a senior fellow at Jamestown Basis, a Washington-based thinktank, mentioned Li is aware of very nicely that he owes his profession to Xi, his patron.
“Li has had no particular political achievement to again him up, so he’s very clear that he owes his place to Xi. So no matter Xi tells him to do, he’ll implement it. He can be very totally different from Li Keqiang … he has to comply with Xi 100%,” Lam mentioned.