BEIJING — One of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s closest allies, Li Qiang, was confirmed as premier on Saturday, furthering Xi’s efforts to exert his authority over the country’s top leadership.
At a meeting of the country’s rubber-stamp parliament, Li, the former Shanghai party chief who oversaw the city’s grueling two-month lockdown last spring, was named the successor of outgoing premier Li Keqiang.
Nearly all of the more than 2,900 delegates at the National People’s Congress voted for the 63-year-old, a day after Xi was unanimously selected by deputies for a record-breaking third term as president.
On Saturday morning, Xi’s motion to nominate Li Qiang as premier was read aloud in the assembly.
Representatives, most of whom were wearing dark suits, cast their votes on ballots in a highly choreographed process as reporters were asked to leave the chamber.
Later, as upbeat traditional music played in the background, delegates applauded as Xi placed his ballots in the ballot box.
The electronic screen in the hall showed that Li received 2,936 votes in favor of his appointment, with only three delegates voting against his nomination and eight others abstaining.
After the Shanghai lockdown, where people had trouble getting food and medical care, some people questioned Li’s ability to rise to the top.
While Xi has been consolidating power in China, Li’s track record and the widespread protests that took place last winter in response to his zero-Covid policy have been largely disregarded.
Li, in contrast to almost all his predecessors as premier, has never held a position in the federal government before.
Li began his career in local government as a worker at an irrigation pump station near his hometown. By 2012, he had worked his way up to the position of provincial governor in the prosperous province of Zhejiang.
When Xi was the party chief in Zhejiang in the early 2000s, he served as Xi’s chief of staff.
President Xi Jinping clearly has faith in Li, as he appointed him to the position of Shanghai Party Secretary in 2017.
Now that he is the premier and head of China’s cabinet (the State Council), he will be in charge of the country’s day-to-day operations and the country’s macroeconomic policy.
As the world’s second largest economy struggles against strong headwinds, outgoing Premier Li Keqiang last week announced a growth target of “around 5%” for 2023.
As a result of the Covivirus H19 pandemic, government shutdowns, and the real estate crisis, China’s economy grew by only 3% in 2018. This is one of the worst showings in recent history.
Since Beijing began cracking down on excessive borrowing and rampant speculation in 2020, China’s housing market, which together with construction accounts for more than a quarter of GDP, has remained in a slump.