Report Wire - ‘Xi Jinping’s man’: Longtime acolyte Li set to be China’s subsequent premier

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‘Xi Jinping’s man’: Longtime acolyte Li set to be China’s subsequent premier

5 min read

By Reuters: Four years earlier than Li Qiang gained notoriety because the drive behind the two-month COVID lockdown of Shanghai, the person set to turn into China’s subsequent premier labored quietly behind the scenes to drive a daring revamp of the megacity’s sclerotic inventory market.

Li’s back-channelling – sources mentioned he bypassed the China Securities Regulatory Commission, which misplaced a few of its energy below the brand new set-up – demonstrated what grew to become a status for pragmatism in addition to shut ties with President Xi Jinping.

In late 2018, Xi himself introduced Shanghai’s new tech-focused STAR Market in addition to the pilot of a registration-based IPO system, reforms meant to entice China’s hottest younger companies to record domestically somewhat than abroad.

READ | China Premier Li Keqiang bows out as Xi loyalists take reins

“The CSRC was very unhappy,” mentioned a veteran banker near regulators and Shanghai officers, declining to be named given the sensitivity of the matter.

“Li’s relationship with Xi played a role here,” enabling him to current the scheme on to the central authorities, with out going by the CSRC, the individual added.

The CSRC didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Previously the Communist Party chief in Shanghai, Li is poised to be confirmed as premier on Saturday through the ongoing National People’s Congress, charged with managing the world’s second largest economic system. He would change the retiring Li Keqiang, who’s broadly perceived to have been more and more sidelined as Xi tightened his grip on administration of the economic system.

Leadership watchers say Li Qiang’s closeness to Xi is each a power and a vulnerability: whereas he has Xi’s belief, he’s beholden to his long-time patron.

ALSO READ | How China’s subsequent premier went once more Xi Jinping to finish zero-Covid curbs

Trey McArver, co-founder of consultancy Trivium China, mentioned Li is more likely to be way more highly effective than his predecessor.

Xi expended vital political capital to get him into the position, given Li’s lack of central authorities expertise and the Shanghai lockdown, McArver mentioned.

“Officials know that Li Qiang is Xi Jinping’s guy,” he mentioned.

“He clearly thinks that Li Qiang is a very competent person and he has put him in this position because he trusts him and he expects a lot of him.”

Li, 63, didn’t reply to questions despatched to China’s State Council Information Office.


A profession bureaucrat, Li was revealed because the choose for China’s No.2 position in October when Xi unveiled a management line-up stacked with loyalists.

At that point, Li had been recognized for overseeing the harrowing COVID lockdown earlier final yr of Shanghai’s 25 million folks, which shut town’s economic system and left psychological scars amongst its residents. That made him a goal of anger however did nothing to derail his promotion.

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Li was additionally instrumental in pushing for China’s unexpectedly sudden finish to its zero-COVID coverage late final yr, Reuters reported on Friday.

People who’ve interacted with Li say they discovered him practical-minded, an efficient bureaucratic operator, and supportive of the personal sector – a stance that will be anticipated in somebody whose profession put him accountable for a few of China’s most economically dynamic areas.

As Communist Party chief between 2002 to 2004 in his house metropolis of Wenzhou, a hotbed of entrepreneurialism, Li got here throughout as open-minded and prepared to pay attention, mentioned Zhou Dewen, who represented small and mid-sized enterprises within the metropolis.

“He took a liberal approach of granting private companies default access to enter the market, except when explicitly banned by law, rather then the traditional approach of keeping private companies out by default,” mentioned Zhou.

Craig Allen, president of the U.S.-China Business Council and a former U.S. official, mentioned Li sought to stage the taking part in area for overseas companies, pointing to the velocity with which U.S. carmaker Tesla was capable of get its Shanghai manufacturing facility there operational in 2019.

“Clearly nothing got in the way once a decision was made. There was a clarity of a kind in his decision making, an authority, and that really helps,” mentioned Allen, describing Li as snug in his personal pores and skin.

Still, a number of observers warning in opposition to placing an excessive amount of weight on Li’s expertise in a enterprise hub corresponding to Shanghai, since Xi has steadily tightened Communist Party management and brought the economic system in a extra statist course.

“Now Li is a national leader, working under a market-sceptic boss, and he has to balance growth with a range of social, technological, and geopolitical goals,” mentioned Neil Thomas, senior analyst at Eurasia.


Even by the opaque requirements of Chinese politics, there’s little public details about Li’s background or private life.

Born in Ruian county in what’s now Wenzhou, the 17-year-old Li went to work in 1976 at an irrigation station in his hometown, a fascinating job in what turned out to be the ultimate yr of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution.

Li entered Zhejiang Agricultural University in 1978, the yr that campuses have been reopened in China and competitors for locations was fierce. He later was awarded grasp’s levels from the central celebration faculty in Beijing and Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

It was in Zhejiang, house to a few of China’s greatest personal firms, the place Xi was provincial celebration secretary and Li was his chief of employees between 2004 and 2007, that the 2 males would have constructed their private bond.

American creator Robert Lawrence Kuhn, who met Li and Xi collectively in 2005 and 2006, mentioned the 2 shared a straightforward rapport.

“Unlike most other staffers of top leaders, Li was no wall-flower,” Kuhn advised Reuters.

“In the presence of Xi, he felt comfortable and confident enough to put himself forward to engage me, which tells me he is not worried his boss might think he is trying to steal his limelight,” Kuhn mentioned.

However, management watchers mentioned there are limits to what Li will be capable of do.

“Li can make some repairs here and there, but he won’t tear down the wall and build something new,” mentioned Chen Daoyin, former affiliate professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, and now a commentator primarily based in Chile.

Published On:

Mar 7, 2023