BEIJING – Former Premier Li Keqiang, China’s top economic official for a decade, died of a heart attack on Friday. He was 68 years old.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
Li was China’s No. 2 leader from 2013-23 and a supporter of private business, but he has little authority after President Xi Jinping made himself the most powerful Chinese leader in decades and tightened control over the economy and society .
CCTV said Li had recently been relaxing in Shanghai and suffered a heart attack on Thursday. He died at 12:10 am on Friday.
Li, an English-speaking economist, was considered a contender to succeed then-Communist Party leader Hu Jintao in 2013, but was dropped in favor of Xi. Reversing the consensus-oriented leadership of the Hu era, Xi centralized powers in his own hands, leaving Li and others with little influence in the party’s ruling seven-member Standing Committee.
As top economic official, Lee promised to improve conditions for entrepreneurs who create jobs and wealth. But under Xi, the ruling party has increased the dominance of state industry and tightened controls on technology and other industries. Foreign companies said they felt unwelcome after Xi and other leaders called for economic self-reliance, expanded anti-espionage laws and raided the offices of consulting firms.
Li was removed from the Standing Committee at a party congress in October 2022, despite being two years short of the unofficial retirement age of 70.
The same day, Xi awarded himself a third five-year term as party leader, abandoning the tradition under which his predecessors stepped down after 10 years. Xi filled the party’s top posts with loyalists, ending the era of consensus leadership and potentially making himself leader for life. The No. 2 spot was filled by Shanghai Party Secretary Li Qiang, who lacked Li Keqiang’s national-level experience and later told reporters that his job was to do what Xi decided.
Former Vice Premier Li Keqiang took over in 2013 as the ruling party faced growing warnings that the manufacturing and export boom that had driven double-digit growth of the previous decade was running out of steam.
Government advisers argued that Beijing needed to boost growth based on domestic consumption and service industries. This would require opening up more state-dominated industries and forcing state banks to make more loans to entrepreneurs.
Li’s predecessor Wen Jiabao apologized at a press conference in March 2012 for not moving fast enough.
In a 2010 speech, Lee acknowledged challenges to spur economic growth, including too much reliance on investment, weak consumer spending and the wealth gap between prosperous eastern cities and poor rural areas home to 800 million people.
Li was seen as a potential candidate to revive then-supreme leader Deng Xiaoping’s market-oriented reforms of the 1980s, which had sparked China’s boom. But he was known for an easy-going style, not the hard-driving impatience of Zhu Rongji, premier from 1998–2003, who ignited a manufacturing and export boom by imposing painful reforms that cut millions of jobs from state industry. of.
Li is believed to have supported the “China 2030” report issued by the World Bank and a cabinet research body in 2012, which called for dramatic changes to reduce the dominance of state industry and rely more on market forces I went.
The Unirule Institute, an independent think tank in Beijing, said state industry was so inefficient that its return on equity – a broad measure of profitability – was negative 6%. Unirule was later shut down by Xi as part of a campaign to tighten information controls.
In his first annual policy address in 2014, he promised to pursue market-oriented reform, cut government waste, clean up air pollution, and root out widespread corruption that undermines public confidence in the ruling party. Lee was praised.
Xi stripped Li of his decision-making powers on economic matters by appointing himself head of the Party Commission overseeing reform.
Xi’s government launched an anti-corruption campaign and jailed hundreds of officials, including former Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang. But the party leaders were in a dilemma regarding the economy. They failed to follow through on a promised list of dozens of market-oriented changes. They increased the dominance of state-owned banks and energy and other companies.
Xi’s government opened up some industries to private and foreign competition, including electric car manufacturing. But it created state-owned “national champions” and encouraged Chinese companies to use domestic suppliers rather than imports.
Borrowing by companies, households and local governments increased, leading to debt that economists had already warned was dangerously high.
Beijing finally tightened controls on lending in real estate, one of China’s biggest industries, in 2020. This led to a decline in economic growth, which fell to 3% in 2022, the second lowest level in three decades.
As governor of central China’s densely populated Henan province from 1998–2004, and later party secretary, Li displayed political acumen but little enthusiasm for reform.
Li gained the nickname “Three Fires Li” and a reputation for bad luck after three deadly fires occurred in Henan while he was there. In 2000, a fire at a nightclub on Christmas Day killed 309 people. Other officials were punished but Lee emerged unscathed.
Meanwhile, provincial leaders were trying to suppress information about the spread of AIDS by the blood-buying industry in Henan.
Li’s reputation for misfortune continued as China suffered several deadly disasters during his tenure.
Just days after he took office, on March 29, 2013, a landslide at a gold mine in Tibet killed at least 66 miners and 17 others were missing and presumed dead.
In the eastern port of Tianjin, a warehouse storing chemicals exploded on August 12, 2015, killing at least 116 people.
On March 22, 2022, a China Eastern Airlines jetliner plunged into the ground, killing all 132 people on board. Authorities have not yet announced a possible cause.
Li oversaw China’s response to COVID-19, the first case of which was found in the central city of Wuhan. Unprecedented controls were then imposed, shutting down most international travel for three years and closing access to major cities for a week.
In one of his last major official acts, Lee led a Cabinet meeting that announced on November 11, 2022, anti-virus measures to minimize disruption after the economy shrank 2.6% in the second quarter of the year Control will be relaxed. Two weeks later, the government announced that most travel and trade restrictions would end the following month.
Li was born on July 1, 1955, in the eastern province of Anhui, and by 1976 he was the ruling party secretary of a commune there.
While studying law at Peking University, he was the campus secretary of the ruling party’s Communist Youth League, an organization that launched the political careers of former party leaders Hu Jintao and Hu Yaobang. He was a member of the League’s Standing Committee, a sign that he was seen as future leadership material.
After serving in a series of party posts, Li received his Ph.D. Received. in Economics from Peking University in 1994.
After Henan, Li served as party secretary for Liaoning province in the northeast as part of a rotation through provincial posts and ministries in Beijing aimed at grooming leaders. He joined the party Central Committee in 2007.