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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang Bows Out As Xi Jinping Loyalists Take Reins 1
Li Keqiang is taking his final bow as China’s premier. (File)Beijing: After a decade in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s shadow, Li Keqiang is taking his final bow as the country’s premier, marking a shift away from the skilled technocrats who have helped steer the world’s second-biggest economy in favour of officials known mainly for their unquestioned loyalty to China’s most powerful leader in recent history, the Voice of America (VOA) reported.After exiting the ruling Communist Party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee in October, despite being below retirement age, Mr Li’s last major task was delivering the state of the nation address to the rubber-stamp parliament on Monday. The report sought to reassure citizens of the resiliency of the Chinese economy but contained little that was new.The VOA reported that once seen as a potential top leader, Li was increasingly sidelined as Mr Xi accumulated ever-greater powers and elevated the military and security services in aid of the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”Mr Li’s lack of visibility sometimes made it difficult to remember he was technically ranked No. 2 in the party.For most of his career, Mr Li was known as a cautious, capable, and highly intelligent bureaucrat who rose through, and was bound by, a consensus-oriented Communist Party that reflexively stifles dissent.As governor and then party secretary of the densely populated agricultural province of Henan in the 1990s, Mr Li squelched reporting on an AIDS outbreak tied to illegal blood-buying rings that pooled plasma and reinjected it into donors after removing the blood products, allegedly with the collusion of local officials, the VOA reported.The VOA reported that, while Mr Li was not in office when the scandal broke, his administration worked to quiet it up, prevented victims from seeking redress and harassed private citizens working on behalf of orphans and others affected.But Mr Li also cut a modestly different profile, an English speaker from a generation of politicians schooled during a time of greater openness to liberal Western ideas.Introduced to politics during the chaotic 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, he made it into the prestigious Peking University, where he studied law and economics, on his own merits rather than through political connections.After graduation, Mr Li went to work at the Communist Youth League, an organization that grooms university students for party roles, then headed by future president and party leader Hu Jintao. The higher office soon followed.Among the largely faceless ranks of Chinese bureaucrats, Mr Li managed to show an unusually candid streak. In a US State Department cable released by WikiLeaks, Mr Li is quoted telling diplomats that Chinese economic growth statistics were ”man-made,” and saying he looked instead to electricity demand, rail cargo traffic and lending as more accurate indicators.The VOA reported, though no populist, in his speeches and public appearances, Mr Li was practically typhonic compared to the typically languorous Mr Xi.Yet, he largely failed to make effective use of the platforms he was given, unlike his immediate predecessors. At his sole annual news conference on the closing day of each congressional annual session, Mr Li used up most of his time repeating talk points and reciting statistics. Throughout the upheavals of China’s three-year battle against COVID-19, Mr Li was practically invisible.Mr Li, who hailed from a humble background, had been seen as Hu’s preferred successor as president. But the need to balance party factions prompted the leadership to choose Mr Xi, the son of a former vice premier and party elder, as the consensus candidate.Meanwhile, Mr Li’s authority was being gradually shrunk, beginning with a reorganization of offices in 2018. While some may have wished Mr Li had been more “influential or decisive,” the ground was crumbling under his feet as Mr Xi shifted more of the powers of the State Council, China’s Cabinet, to party institutions, Cheng Li said. That shift to expanded party control is expected to continue at the current congress meeting on an even greater scale.At the same time, Mr Xi appeared to favour trusted long-time brothers-in-arms such as economic adviser Liu He and head of the legislature Li Zhanshu, over Li Keqiang, leaving him with little visibility or influence.His departure leaves major questions about the future of the private sector that President Xi has been reining in, along with wider economic reforms championed by Li and his cohorts.His expected replacement, Li Qiang, is a crony of President Xi’s from his days in the provincial government, best known for his ruthless implementation of last spring’s months-long COVID-19 lockdown in Shanghai, the VOA reported.Keqiang Li may be remembered less for what he achieved than for the fact that he was the last of the technocrats to serve at the top of the Chinese Communist Party, said Carl Minzner, an expert on Chinese law and governance at New York’s Fordham University and the Council on Foreign Relations.(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)Featured Video Of The Day85 Women Paramilitary Officers To Ride 1,800 km To Maoist Stronghold

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