Li Qiang Xi Jinping Loyalist Handled Shanghai Covid Lockdown Next Premier Despite

New Delhi: Li Qiang has been selected as the next Prime Minister by newly re-appointed President Xi Jinping as he unveiled his new governing body of China which is full of loyalists, on Sunday. Li Qiang oversaw the grinding two-month-long Covid-19 lockdown this year in Shangai and much to people’s surprise he has been elevated to the No.2 position after the president himself in the seven-man Standing Committee. 

Li Qiang will take over the economic management role, once the current premier Li Keqiang — a more reform-minded leader —  steps down in March next year. 

“Honestly, I did not have him on my list,” said Joerg Wuttke, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, who had expected the reform-minded Hu Chunhua or Wang Yang to be the next premier, news agency Reuters reported. However, both Hu and Yang have been left out of the 24-member Politburo. 

Li is the first premier since 1976 elevated to the premier’s post directly without first becoming vice premier.

“Tradition is that somebody who becomes premier must be vice-premier before – this is totally against party convention,” said Willy Lam, a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, the U.S. think tank, as quoted by Reuters. 

Due to his handling of the Shanghai lockdown, he became a target of social media outrage which made past censors. His decisions disrupted the city’s economy and were criticised by 25 million residents, according to the report. 

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Lam also said that Li hasn’t shown any market-oriented reforms, a Chinese fund manager also said that the market’s feeling towards the new body has been negative, Reuters reported. 

“Hardly anyone in the line-up has a profound understanding of the economy,” he said. “Li is already seen as being better than the rest.”

Li is a native of Zhejiang province has and been Xi trusted confidant as he was the chief of staff from 2004 to 2007 when Xi was the party chief in the province. In 2013, when Xi became president Li was promoted to governor of the economic powerhouse province, which meant he was being groomed by the president for bigger roles. 

Three years later, he promoted Li as the Communist Party’s secretary of Jiangsu Province, an affluent hub of industrial activity, the New York Times reported.

Li was also known for pushing greater economic integration of the Yangtze River Delta region as well as overseeing an expansion of the financial hub’s free trade zone that now houses US automaker Tesla’s China factory as well as a slew of semiconductor and advanced manufacturing firms, according to the report.