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China: Li Qiang appointed prime minister

Li Qiang, considered one of Xi Jinping’s closest trusted men, was named the new Chinese prime minister on Saturday.

In a vote of deputies gathered at the People’s Palace in Beijing, Li Qiang, the only candidate for this post, obtained 2,936 votes for, three against and eight abstentions.

Li Qiang, 63, a former Communist Party official in Shanghai, whose image had been somewhat tarnished in the spring during the chaotic confinement of his city, succeeds Li Keqiang, in office since 2013.

The Chinese Premier heads the State Council. Its function is traditionally associated with the day-to-day management of the country and the conduct of macroeconomic policy.

Li Qiang, who had been propelled to the rank of number two in the Communist Party (CCP) in October, has no experience at the central government level, unlike almost all former prime ministers.

However, he has had a rich career in local government and has held important leadership positions in the wealthy coastal provinces of Zhejiang (east) and Jiangsu (east).

Li Qiang was Xi Jinping’s chief of staff when he was party leader in Zhejiang between 2004 and 2007.

His promotions, which have been rapid since, reflect the high level of confidence placed in him by the Chinese number one.

Saturday at the People’s Palace in Beijing, Xi Jinping and Li Qiang appeared accomplices at the time of the vote, exchanging pleasantries with a smile.

Li Qiang takes office at a time when the world’s second-largest economy is facing a sharp slowdown, weakened by nearly three years of an inflexible so-called “zero Covid” policy.

For 2023, the government has set itself a GDP growth target of “around 5%”, one of the lowest in decades.

Outgoing Prime Minister Li Keqiang, an economist by training, had seen his plans for economic reform hampered by the growing authority of Xi Jinping.

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