March 30, 2023

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Closer to Xi Jinping is Li Keqiang, China’s new premier

Li Qiang, considered one of Xi Jinping’s closest confidants, was named China’s new premier on Saturday, a day after the Chinese president was re-elected for a third term.

Xi Jinping, 69, won a new five-year term as China’s president on Friday after a unanimous vote in parliament, making him China’s most powerful leader in generations.

The outcome of the ballot was in doubt as the parliament was, in practice, subservient to the ruling Communist Party (CCP).

In another vote by delegates gathered at the Palace of the People in Beijing on Saturday, Li Qiang, the sole candidate for the premiership, received 2,936 votes in favor, three against, and eight abstentions.

Journalists were asked to leave the semi-circle while delegates cast their votes at the ballot box.

Li Qiang, 63, a former Communist Party official in Shanghai whose image was somewhat tarnished during his city’s tumultuous arrest in the spring, has succeeded Li Keqiang since 2013.

After his appointment, Li Qiang was sworn into the constitution.

In the document, with a raised right fist and raised left hand, he vowed to “work hard to build a better modern socialist country.”

– Complicity and Friendship –

The Chinese Premier presides over the State Council. Its function is traditionally concerned with the day-to-day management of the country and the conduct of macroeconomic policy.

Li Qiang, who was relegated to second place in the Communist Party (CCP) in October, has no experience at the central government level, unlike almost all former premiers.

However, he had a rich career in local government and held important leadership positions in the wealthy coastal provinces of Zhejiang (East) and Jiangsu (East).

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Between 2004 and 2007, during Xi Jinping’s tenure as party chief in Zhejiang, Li Qiang was the presiding officer.

His rapid rise through the ranks since then reflects the high confidence the Chinese number one has in him.

Xi Jinping and Li Qiang appeared friendly, smiling and exchanging pleasantries during the vote at the Palace of the People in Beijing on Saturday.

Li Qiang took office at a time when the world’s second-largest economy faces a sharp recession, weakened by nearly three years of so-called “zero Covid” policy.

For 2023, the government has set a GDP growth target of “around 5%”, one of the lowest in decades.

– “strict control” –

Outgoing Premier Li Keqiang, an economist by training, has seen his plans for economic reform stymied by Xi Jinping’s growing power.

Willy Lam, a political scientist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told AFP that it was unlikely that Li Qiang would have the power to further develop the route.

In particular, Mr. Lam underlines.

On Saturday, representatives appointed Zhang Yuxia and He Weidong as vice-chairmen of the Central Military Commission (of which Xi Jinping is chairman), while Zhang Jun assumed the post of president of the Supreme Court.

Ying Yong, the former party chief of Hubei province (center), where the first cases of Covid-19 were discovered, has been elected as the advocate of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate.

Liu Jingguo becomes head of the National Supervisory Commission, the anti-corruption body.