Li Keqiang China’s former president who Xi Jinping pushed aside, dies at age 68. Former Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, aged 68, died of myocardial infarction.
Friday at 10 minutes past midnight, he reportedly passed away despite “all-out” efforts to revive him, according to state media.
Formerly considered the nation’s prospective leader, Li was surpassed in that regard by President Xi Jinping.
Although he was educated in economics and formerly occupied the second-highest position in China, he has become increasingly reclusive among China’s top leadership in recent years.
He was the only high-ranking incumbent official, not a member of the group of Mr. Xi’s loyalists.
“No one appears capable of assuming Li’s responsibilities as a prominent moderator at the highest levels of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the wake of his death,” said Ian Chong, a non-resident scholar at the Carnegie China think tank, in an interview with the BBC.
“This probably means even less restraint on Mr Xi’s exercise of power and authority.”
Li, who resigned as premier in March of this year, was in Shanghai when he suffered an unexpected heart attack on Thursday and passed away early on Friday.
On Chinese social media, his passing is being mourned broadly, with many users expressing astonishment and sorrow; however, it appears that comments on many posts have been restricted.
“This is far too sudden, he was so young,” one Weibo user from China exclaimed. Another compared his passing to the destruction of “a pillar of our home.”
State media outlets have also reported on Li’s demise, acknowledging his significant contributions to the CCP and the nation. Former Chinese leaders’ demises have historically incited demonstrations. The outpouring of grief that followed the passing of Jiang Zemin a year ago was interpreted as a nuanced critique of President Xi.
Li was considered among the most astute political figures of his time. He was granted admission to the esteemed Peking University Law School shortly after academic institutions resumed operations after Mao’s Cultural Revolution, an era characterized by the presumed deaths of millions of individuals.
Beyond China, his most recognizable contribution is the Li Keqiang index, an informal metric for assessing China’s economic development introduced by The Economist.
Li, the individual who “told it as it is,” was the progeny of a regional official and belonged to a modest household. He was born in July 1955 in Dingyuan County, Anhui province, eastern China.
By ascending the rankings, he achieved the distinction of becoming the youngest provincial governor in China. Subsequently, he was appointed to the Politburo Standing Committee, the highest echelon of the party’s central leadership.
There was once speculation that he was being prepared to succeed Hu Jintao, the predecessor of Mr. Xi.
Before his resignation in March of this year, he was the final appointee of the Hu administration to hold a position on the Politburo Standing Committee. He was widely regarded as Mr. Hu’s protégé. The Hu years were characterized by a greater acceptance of new ideas and an increased receptivity to the outside world.
Li was renowned for his pragmatic approach to economic policy, which centered on providing affordable housing and reducing the wealth disparity.
Prof. Bert Hofman of the National University of Singapore stated on the BBC’s Newsday program, “He was a very enthusiastic, open man who genuinely sought to advance China and facilitated open dialogue with people from all walks of life.”
Dr. Chong said Li will be remembered for his “open and reformist economic orientation.” “[He was] more of a technocrat than an ideologue or loyalist.”Li championed policies encouraging technological innovation and entrepreneurship, particularly among the youth.
He was an economist who gained notoriety for “telling it like it is” within a party dominated by engineers; he openly acknowledged China’s economic problems in an effort to find solutions.
“Likonomics” was his economic strategy of debt reduction and structural reform that sought to wean China off debt-driven development and steer the nation towards self-sufficiency.
However, by 2016, the party mouthpiece People’s Daily had abandoned the term “Likonomics” in preference of Mr. Xi’s economic philosophy, which emphasized supply-side changes and microeconomic reforms.
Hofman further stated that during his tenure as premier, Li spearheaded China’s most significant campaign against air pollution, infamously “declaring war” on pollution in 2014 and acknowledging at the highest level that it was a national crisis; this resulted in a substantial reduction in corruption and the health risks associated with it.
The zero-Covid crisis in China beset the final days of Li’s presidency.
During the most severe period, he issued a dire warning that the economy was under immense pressure and urged officials to exercise caution to prevent growth-stifling restrictions. Even more so, he was observed unmasked in public before China lifting its zero-Covid policy.
However, when cadres were forced to choose between Mr. Xi’s directive to maintain zero-Covid with extreme discipline and his order to safeguard the economy, it was an easy decision: China would double down on restrictions.
Zero-Covid severed the economic impact on China, closing businesses and suffocating supply chains in every region, from the economic capital of Shanghai to rural areas.