Xi Jinping names his close aide Li Qiang as China’s new Premier

China’s Parliament on Saturday confirmed President Xi Jinping’s close aide Li Qiang as the country’s new Premier, succeeding Li Keqiang who held the post for the last 10 years overseeing the second largest economy.

The annual session of the National People’s Congress, a ceremonial body that routinely passes the proposals of the ruling Communist Party of China, approved Li Qiang’s candidature after his name was proposed by Xi himself.

Li Qiang, 63, stated to be a pro-business politician in Xi’s inner circle, will be the number two ranked official of the CPC and the government after Xi, who was Friday confirmed for an unprecedented third five-year term.

Xi, 69, is the only leader after the party founder Mao Zedong to have more than two five-year tenures and he is widely expected to be in power for life.

Li Qiang, who worked with Xi during his provincial stints before shifting to the central government as Vice President, was head of the party in Shanghai, China’s largest modern business hub.

His handling of the last year’s COVID outbreak, keeping the city of over 26 million under lockdown for about a month drew sharp criticism at home and abroad as it resulted in heavy hardships for the population.

Li Qiang is expected to galvanise the private sector as well as foreign investments into the second largest economy dispelling the impression that the government, which resorted to crackdown against top business houses like Alibaba in the last few years, is reverting to the state-owned enterprises.

The outgoing Premier Li Keqiang who submitted this year’s work report proposing a five per cent growth rate target for the economy, the lowest in decades, retired this week.

Considering the Chinese economy registered a three per cent GDP last year, its lowest in decades, the focus will be on Li Qiang to shoulder the responsibility of shoring up the economy to previous levels of growth, defusing immediate risks, tapping into long-term growth potential and elevating China into a high-income economy during his tenure.

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