Li Qiang, A Close Ally Of Xi Jinping, Becomes China’s New Prime Minister

China's new Premier Li Qiang during a Communist Party assembly on March 11, 2023. —Photo: Greg Baker/Pool via Reuters

China’s President Xi Jinping has appointed close ally Li Qiang as the country’s new prime minister.

Featured image: China's new Premier Li Qiang during a Communist Party assembly on March 11, 2023. —Photo: Greg Baker/Pool via Reuters


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  • China’s new prime minister, Li Qiang, is a close ally of President Xi Jinping.
  • Li was appointed on Saturday, March 11th, and will be responsible for managing day-to-day issues and leading China’s macroeconomic policy.
  • He previously served as the leader of the Communist Party in Shanghai, where he oversaw the anti-Covid lockdown in the city.
  • Li’s appointment comes at a time when China’s economy is experiencing a slowdown.
  • The government has set a target of 5% GDP growth for 2023, one of the lowest in two decades.

Li Qiang, a close ally of Chinese President Xi Jinping, has been named China’s new prime minister, according to reports from the annual session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) on Saturday, March 11th.

Xi was also confirmed for a third term as the country’s president on Friday, March 10th.

Having led the Communist Party in Shanghai, Li Qiang is regarded as one of Xi’s most loyal aides. Li Keqiang, who had held the position since 2013, was replaced by him.

The nomination of Li Qiang occurs during a period of economic slowdown in the second-largest economy in the world, which has been weakened by three years of rigid “Covid Zero” policy.

The post of prime minister in China is responsible for day-to-day management issues in the country and for commanding macroeconomic policy. The premier also leads the Chinese government’s Council of State.

During the vote, which registered 2,936 votes in favor, three against, and eight abstentions, Xi and Li showed complicity with smiles and courtesies.

Li Qiang pledged to “work hard to build an outstanding modern socialist country” after his official appointment.

Li Qiang, unlike the majority of his predecessors, has no experience in the federal government but has a wealth of knowledge in local administrations thanks to his command of the eastern coastal provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu.

Li, who began his career as a laborer at an irrigation pumping station, was Xi’s chief of staff when he led the party in Zhejiang from 2004 to 2007.

His rapid promotions since then reflect the high level of trust that the Chinese president deposits in him, which led him in 2017 to the position of party secretary in Shanghai.

However, some experts believe that Li Qiang may not have the necessary authority to further develop the reformist path in China.

Political scientist Willy Lam, from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told AFP that “even more so because Xi Jinping insists on the need for stricter control of the economy by the State and the party, contrary to what was practiced from the end of the 1970s onwards.”

Li Qiang’s rise appeared to be in jeopardy after his management of the lockdown in Shanghai, China’s most populous city and economic hub, where residents faced food shortages, difficult medical care, and a harsh lockdown. But the 63-year-old politician received almost all the votes from delegates gathered at the NPC.

In addition to Li Qiang’s appointment, deputies also nominated Zhang Youxia and He Weidong as vice-presidents of the Central Military Commission, chaired by Xi, and Zhang Jun as president of the Supreme Court. Ying Yong, former party leader in Hubei province, where the first cases of Covid were identified, was promoted to attorney general of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate.

Liu Jinguo took charge of the National Supervisory Commission, the body responsible for the fight against corruption.

In general, Li Qiang’s appointment as prime minister signals continued support for Xi Jinping’s policies, and the Chinese government’s determination to strengthen its control over the economy and society.

However, it remains to be seen whether Li Qiang will be able to implement reforms and lead China through the challenges it faces in the years ahead.

Featured image: China’s new Premier Li Qiang during a Communist Party assembly on March 11, 2023. —Photo: Greg Baker/Pool via Reuters

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