Li Qiang: President Xi’s close confidant Li Qiang appointed new Chinese PM to revive ailing economy

BEIJING: Chinese parliament on Saturday confirmed President Xi Jinping’s trusted ally Li Qiang as the new prime minister to revive the world’s second-largest economy hit by three years of ‘zero-Covid’ restrictions and deteriorating relations with the West.
Li Qiang, 63, succeeds Li Keqiang, 67, who held the post for 10 years.
The annual session of the National People’s Congress (NPC), a largely ceremonial body that regularly adopts proposals from the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CPC), approved Li Qiang’s candidacy after his name was proposed by Xi himself. even.
However, his “election” unlike that of Xi was not unanimous.
It was endorsed by 2,936 of the 2,947 NPC members who attended Saturday’s meeting, with three votes against and eight abstentions, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post newspaper reported.
After the vote, Xi signed a presidential decree appointing Li Qiang as prime minister after which he took an oath of allegiance to the Constitution.
Later, Xi shook hands with Li Qiang in brief video clips aired on national television.
After that, Li Keqiang also shook hands with Li Qiang in what appears to be a smooth transfer of power given that the incumbent prime minister has maintained a low profile in recent years, apparently unhappy with the erosion of his power as a result. to Xi’s dramatic rise in stature in recent years. ten years of assimilating to party founder Mao Zedong.
Later, Xi shook hands with Li Keqiang and exchanged pleasantries apparently saying goodbye as he headed towards his retirement from politics.
Li Keqiang, a candidate alongside Xi in the 2012 presidential race, chose to retire last year, apparently unhappy with the president’s big push to consolidate his power by skillfully using the massive crackdown on corruption and maintain the army.
He was considered a less powerful prime minister than his predecessors.
Li Qiang, said to be a pro-business politician in Xi’s inner circle, will be the official number two in the CCP and the government after Xi, who was confirmed as president and army chief on Friday for an unprecedented third five. – one year term.
Xi, 69, is the only leader after party founder Mao Zedong to have served more than two five-year terms and is widely expected to be in power for life.
Bilateral relations between China and some major Western countries, particularly with the United States, are at their lowest level in decades, leading to escalating tensions in technology and investment.
Li Qiang worked with Xi in his early years during his provincial stints before moving to the central government as vice president. He led the party in Shanghai, China’s largest modern business center.
However, his handling of last year’s COVID outbreak, keeping the city of more than 26 million people under lockdown for about two months, has drawn heavy criticism at home and abroad, as it has caused great hardship for the population.
Li Qiang, who has remained a close ally of Xi, is expected to galvanize the private sector as well as foreign investment in the world’s second-largest economy, dispelling the impression that the government, which has resorted to a crackdown on big companies like Alibaba in the years, falls to public enterprises.
In his annual work report, Li Keqiang on March 5 proposed a growth rate target of around 5 percent for the economy, the lowest in decades.
Given that China’s economy recorded 3% GDP last year, its lowest level in decades, Li Qiang will focus on the responsibility of returning the economy to previous growth levels, defusing immediate risks , to harness long-term growth potential and elevate China into a high-income economy during his tenure.
Li Qiang is due to hold his first annual press conference on March 13 on the last day of the NPC session, which will be watched at home and abroad, during which he was to outline his plan to revitalize the Chinese economy and other challenges like a demographic crisis, technological bottlenecks and the US crackdown on Chinese high-tech.
“Li Qiang’s biggest challenge will be reviving the Chinese economy this year,” said Ava Shen, China and Northeast Asia partner at Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy.
“It remains uncertain whether consumer demand can rebound significantly this year to drive growth, and financial risks in the real estate sector and local government debt persist.
“He needs to design policies to further stimulate demand while keeping financial risks at bay,” Shen told the Post.
But analysts debate how much political leeway the 63-year-old former Shanghai Communist Party boss will enjoy as he begins his five-year term, given that the position’s authority has waned over the past decade as Xi consolidated power.
Considering the tight corner China faces and Li Qiang being his close confidant, some observers say Xi could give the new prime minister more room to revive the economy during his five-year term.
Besides Li Qiang, the NPC also approved Zhang Youxia and He Weidong as vice chairmen of the Central Military Commission (CMC) — the Chinese military high command led by Xi — and Li Shangfu, Liu Zhenli, miaohua and Zhang Shengmin as CMC members.
Parliament also approves a host of other appointments, including the CCP-appointed Chief Justice.


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