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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Li Qiang named as China’s next premier after nomination from Xi Jinping

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China has named Li Qiang, a close confidant of President Xi Jinping, as the country’s next premier nominally in charge of the world’s second largest economy.

Mr Li was nominated by Mr Xi and appointed to the position with no dissenting voices at Saturday morning’s session of the National People’s Congress, China’s ceremonial parliament.

It came a day after Mr Xi, 69, secured a third five-year term as state leader.

A two-term limit on the figurehead presidency was deleted from the Chinese constitution earlier, prompting suggestions he might stay in power for life.

Mr Li is best known for having enforced a brutal “zero-Covid” lockdown on Shanghai last spring as party boss of the Chinese financial hub, proving his loyalty to Mr Xi in the face of complaints from residents over their lack of access to food, medical care and basic services.

Mr Li, 63, came to know Mr Xi during the future president’s term as head of Mr Li’s native Zhejiang, a relatively wealthy south-eastern province now known as a technology and manufacturing powerhouse.

Prior to the pandemic, Mr Li built up a reputation in Shanghai and Zhejiang before that as friendly to private industry, even as Mr Xi enforced tighter political controls and anti-Covid curbs, as well as more control over e-commerce and other tech companies.

As premier, Mr Li will be charged with reviving a sluggish economy still emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic and confronted with weak global demand for exports, lingering US tariff hikes, a shrinking workforce and an aging population.

He takes on the job as authority of the premier and the State Council, China’s Cabinet, has been steadily eroding as Mr Xi shifts more powers to bodies directly under the ruling Communist Party.

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