Li Keqiang confirmed as China’s new prime minister
Li Keqiang has been named as China’s new prime minister, placing him at the helm of the world’s second-largest economy.
Li Keqiang, who already holds the number two spot in the Communist Party, takes over from Wen Jiabao.
He was elected for a five-year term but, like his predecessor, would be expected to spend a decade in office.
Li Keqiang’s widely-signalled elevation was confirmed by 3,000 legislators at the National People’s Congress, the annual parliament session, in Beijing. He received 2,940 votes to three, with six abstentions.
As premier, Li Keqiang will oversee a large portfolio of domestic affairs, managing economic challenges, environmental woes and China’s urbanization drive.
The appointments seal the shift from one generation of leaders to the next. A raft of vice-premiers and state councillors will be named on Saturday, before the NPC closes on Sunday.
Li Keqiang, 57, who is seen as close to outgoing leader Hu Jintao, speaks fluent English and has a PhD in economics.He has called for a more streamlined government, eliminating some ministries while boosting the size of others.
The son of a local official in Anhui province, Li Keqiang became China’s youngest provincial governor when he was tasked to run Henan.
But his time there was marked by a scandal involving the spread of HIV through contaminated blood.
Li Keqiang is expected to end the NPC with a press conference on Sunday, given by Wen Jiabao in the past.
On Thursday, Xi Jinping’s move was approved by 2,952 votes to one, with three abstentions.
Hours later, President Barack Obama called both to congratulate him and raise concerns over ongoing issues, including cyber hacking and North Korea.
“Both leaders agreed on the value of regular high-level engagement to expand co-operation and co-ordination,” a White House statement said.
Barack Obama is sending both Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and Secretary of State John Kerry to Beijing in coming days, in an apparent bid to reach out to the new administration.
In an editorial, state-run Global Times said Xi Jinping and his colleagues needed to show powerful leadership to unite society.
“China cannot stop developing or fighting corruption. Social unity is the key to how China can stand against complex international affairs,” it said.
Meanwhile, prominent dissident Hu Jia said he was detained and beaten by police on Thursday after he criticized the election of Xi Jinping as fake.
The well-known AIDS activist said police also refused him treatment for injuries to his head and ribs.
He said authorities were also angry because he had arranged meetings with Liu Xia, wife of jailed Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, who is under house arrest.
- Seen as one of the more reform-minded members of the new leadership
- Started out as a manual laborer on a rural commune
- Studied law at Peking University, where he became involved in student politics
- Widely speculated that Li Keqiang was former President Hu Jintao’s preferred successor, but lost the top job to Xi Jinping
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