Li Qiang named China’s new premier, tasked with managing world’s second-largest economy

BEIJING: China’s parliament on Saturday (Mar 11) confirmed Li Qiang as the country’s new premier, with the task of managing the world’s second-largest economy. 

The former Shanghai party chief replaces Li Keqiang at the end of his two-term limit.

Li Qiang received 2,936 votes in favour, with three votes against and eight abstentions, according to totals projected on a screen inside the Great Hall of the People.

A career bureaucrat, Li was revealed as the pick for China’s No 2 job at a major party congress in October when Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled a leadership lineup stacked with loyalists.

Widely perceived to be pragmatic and business-friendly, the 63-year-old faces the daunting task of shoring up China’s uneven economic recovery after three years of COVID-19 curbs, weak confidence among consumers and the private sector, as well as global headwinds.

He takes office amid rising tensions with the West, including US moves to block China’s access to key technologies and as many global companies diversify supply chains to hedge their China exposure, given political risks and the disruptions of the COVID-19 era.

China’s economy grew just 3 per cent last year, and on the opening day of parliament, Beijing set a modest 2023 growth target of around 5 per cent, its lowest goal in nearly three decades.

Expectations of Li are based on his credentials as party chief of the country’s largest city Shanghai and governor of neighbouring Zhejiang province – a hub of small- and mid-sized businesses – as well as and perhaps more importantly, his close ties with Xi.

A native of Zhejiang, Li’s working relationship with Xi began in the 2000s when the latter was appointed party chief there. Following Xi’s eventual move to Beijing and appointment as party general secretary, Li was promoted to Zhejiang governor in 2013, the No 2 role in the provincial government.

Three years later, Li was appointed party chief of Jiangsu province, an economic powerhouse on the east coast of China, marking the first time he held a position outside his home province. In 2017, he was named party boss of Shanghai, a role held by Xi before the president stepped into China’s core leadership roles.

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