Dhe Chinese People’s Congress has elected Li Qiang as China’s new Prime Minister. As expected, the almost 3,000 hand-picked delegates voted in favor of the 63-year-old with an overwhelming majority this Saturday at their current annual meeting in the Great Hall of the People. Li Qiang succeeds Li Keqiang (67), 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.
Xi does not expect any replies
While the former premier belonged to a different political camp, Li Qiang is considered a close confidant of the head of state and party leader, who appointed him a senior member of the Politburo last October. As early as 2007, he worked directly under Xi, when he was still party leader of the important province of Zhejiang.
Li has had a long career, most of which has been spent on China’s prosperous east coast. 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 bit more about how to do things,” said Nis Grünberg from the China Institute Merics in Berlin.
Under Li’s supervision, 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. It doesn’t seem to have done Li any harm politically.
Xi Jinping cements his power
On Friday, Xi was confirmed by the People’s Congress for an unusual third term as president. 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 meeting, which lasts until Monday, is the scene of the largest government reshuffle in ten years, in which mainly close confidants of Xi are promoted.