Political analysts Victor Shih looks into the background of Li Qiang, China’s new premier, and his past in the country’s elite for NPR.
China’s annual session of parliament ended today. President Xi Jinping secured a third term and stacked the government with allies, including a new premier. But as NPR’s John Ruwitch reports, it’s unclear if Li Qiang’s loyalty is an asset or a liability.
JOHN RUWITCH, BYLINE: The story of Li Qiang’s rise goes back two decades. He was working in his home province of Zhejiang next to Shanghai. Xi Jinping was the provincial Communist Party secretary, the boss. And Li became his chief of staff, a role in which…
VICTOR SHIH: He is the enforcer or go-between the party secretary of the province and all the subordinate units.
RUWITCH: A critical job, says Victor Shih, a specialist in elite Chinese politics at the University of California San Diego. Xi Jinping was on his way up but fighting factional struggles in Zhejiang. Li stood by his side.
SHIH: At that time, there were sort of two camps in the province, and so Xi Jinping’s trust of Li Qiang might have started in this period of relatively intense conflict.
RUWITCH: That apparent trust grew. Li got promotions and was soon governor of the province. Along the way, he developed a reputation as a champion of private business… But Victor Shih of UC San Diego says there’s still a big lingering question. Which of the 63-year-old Li’s instincts will we see more of?
SHIH: You know, whether it will be his – you know, his own belief in the market, in private entrepreneurship or whether it’s going to be his reflex to always carry out instructions from his patron.
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