Li Keqiang 李克强
Premier of the State Council
Second in the Politburo Standing Committee
Pronunciation: Lee Kuh-cheeyahng soundbite
Born: 1955, Anhui Province.
Education: Sent for rural labour during Cultural Revolution and named “Outstanding Individual in the Study of Mao Zedong Thought.” Studied Law at Beijing University with a Ph.D. in Economics; He was a student group leader and some classmates became dissidents (see below).
Career: Was first among Vice Premiers from 2008 – 2013. He seems interested in climate change, energy efficiency, health care, and affordable housing.
Prospects: He will be expected to spend a decade as Number 2 in Politburo Standing Committee and Premier of the State Council.
Relevance to Tibet: One of the two most powerful leaders in China.
Standing in the Party and Career Highlights:
Number two in the Politburo Standing Committee and succeeded Wen Jiabao as Premier of the State Council in March 2013.
Li is considered by many to be “a 13-year-younger carbon copy of Hu Jintao” – his mentor – because of great similarities in background, style and philosophy. [A Reuters report on 31 August 2012 quoted sources as saying that Hu Jintao was negotiating to promote Li to be a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, to allow Hu to maintain some influence in this powerful body after he stepped down, but this did not transpire.]
Hu and Li’s 25-year friendship was forged at the China Youth League. Hu wanted Li to succeed him as president but was forced — by relatively new policy of governance by consensus [also backroom power politics] — to accept Xi Jinping.
Li is credited with a sharp intellect, even temper and ability to turn potential enemies into allies (Financial Times). Speaks fluent English.
Li Keqiang joined China Youth League 1980 and was General Secretary 1993 – 1998.
Governor of Henan Province in 1998 at age of 43, China’s youngest governor Party Secretary of Henan;
Party Secretary of Liaoning Province (2004 – 2007). Dogged with a “bad luck” label because of a series of disasters—fires, coal mine explosions—that occurred in Henan and Liaoning. In Henan, he became known as “three fires Li”.
Criticized for slow response to AIDS epidemic caused by infected blood in Henan and generally gave a lackluster performance as governor.
He has a low profile and, until recently, had done little foreign travel. A high-profile visit to Hong Kong in August 2011 created outrage when demonstrators were over-zealously controlled.
November 2013 saw the creation of a major new leading group on “Overall Reform” led by Xi Jinping. Three other Politburo Standing Committee members are part of this Group; Li Keqiang, Liu Yunshan and Zhang Gaoli. The South China Morning Post reported that Xi had named subgroups to focus on six reform categories: economics and ecology; culture; democracy and law; social systems; party building; and party discipline.
According to the Financial Times, Li studied under Gong Xiangrui, who gave a class on constitutional democracy. With several other students, Li helped translate The Due Process of Law by “people’s judge” Lord Denning. Some of Li’s classmates became dissidents or human rights activists. These include Wang Shaoguang, Hu Ping, Zhang Wei, Fang Zhiming, Wang Juntao and Yang Baikui (see quotes below).
According to Cheng Li, Li experimented with democracy, winning election as head of the student assembly. On first joining China Youth League Li was criticized for his liberal views. He is reported to have a photographic memory.
Quotations By/Comments About
- Wikipedia: He is known to be outspoken with a sharp tongue.
- Forbes: polished, poised.
- Cheng Li: “Li has two distinct personality traits …he never loses his temper …he hardly ever says anything negative about any of his associates or colleagues.”
- US Embassy Cables (from Wikileaks), 15 March 2007: “With the Ambassador, Li was engaging and well-informed on a wide range of issues. He displayed a good sense of humor and appeared relaxed and confident throughout. Though coy about his hobbies and interests, Li said he likes to “walk,” noting that he builds walking into his work schedule.” (A Financial Times profile in March 2011 said Li “used an interest in tennis to curry favour with…. influential party elders”.)
- US Embassy Cables (Wikileaks), 15 March 2007: “GDP figures are ‘man-made’ and therefore unreliable, Li said. When evaluating Liaoning’s economy, he focuses on three figures: 1) electricity consumption, which was up 10 percent in Liaoning last year; 2) volume of rail cargo, which is fairly accurate because fees are charged for each unit of weight; and 3) amount of loans disbursed, which also tends to be accurate given the interest fees charged. By looking at these three figures, Li said he can measure with relative accuracy the speed of economic growth. All other figures, especially GDP statistics, are ‘for reference only,’ he said smiling.”
- Former classmates, quoted by Reuters “When we were working on translating the book and exchanging ideas, I thought his views were very liberal”….”His leanings were clearly pro-Western ideas. He certainly wasn’t conservative,” said Yang Baikui, now a bald 61-year-old translator in Beijing, in a recent interview. “When he opened his mouth, it wasn’t Mao slogans.” Another classmate, Wang Juntao now exiled in New Jersey, told Reuters “Among all the younger leaders, Li Keqiang is the only one who’s lived and debated alongside these liberals”…
“He understands us, he’s argued with us.”
- A China Leadership Monitor profile by Cheng Li, April 2012 can be downloaded from http://www.hoover.org/publications/china-leadership-monitor/article/116046
Li Keqiang’s Contact Information:
- Address: Zhongnanhai, Xi Chang’an Jie, Beijing 100017.
- Website: www.gov.cn
- Phone: + 86 10 6307 0913
- Fax: + 86 10 6307 0900