NEWSMAKER-Li Qiang, Xi confidant, takes reins as China’s premier

NEWSMAKER-Li Qiang, Xi confidant, takes reins as China’s premier

NEWSMAKER-Li Qiang, Xi confidant, takes reins as China’s premier

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By Yew Lun Tian, Laurie Chen and Joe Money

BEIJING, March 11 (Reuters) – 4 years earlier than Li Qiang gained notoriety because the power behind the two-month COVID-19 lockdown of Shanghai, the person who turned China’s premier on Saturday labored quietly behind the scenes to drive a daring revamp of the megacity’s sclerotic inventory market.

Li’s back-channelling – sources stated he bypassed the China Securities Regulatory Fee, which misplaced a few of its energy underneath the brand new set-up – demonstrated what turned a status for pragmatism in addition to shut ties with President Xi Jinping.

In late 2018, Xi himself introduced Shanghai’s new tech-focused STAR Market in addition to the pilot of a registration-based IPO system, reforms meant to entice China’s hottest younger companies to listing regionally slightly than abroad.

“The CSRC was very sad,” stated a veteran banker near regulators and Shanghai officers, declining to be named given the sensitivity of the matter.

“Li’s relationship with Xi performed a job right here,” enabling him to current the scheme on to the central authorities, with out going by means of the CSRC, the individual added.

The CSRC didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Beforehand the Communist Social gathering chief in Shanghai, Li was confirmed as premier in the course of the Nationwide Folks’s Congress, charged with managing the world’s second largest financial system. He changed the retiring Li Keqiang, extensively perceived to have been sidelined as Xi tightened his grip on administration of the financial system.

Management watchers say Li Qiang’s closeness to Xi is each a power and a vulnerability: whereas he has Xi’s belief, he’s beholden to his long-time patron.

Trey McArver, co-founder of consultancy Trivium China, stated Li is prone to be way more highly effective than his predecessor.

Xi expended important political capital to get him into the position, given Li’s lack of central authorities expertise and the Shanghai lockdown, McArver stated.

“Officers know that Li Qiang is Xi Jinping’s man,” he stated.

“He clearly thinks that Li Qiang is a really competent individual and he has put him on this place as a result of he trusts him and he expects a number of him.”

Li, 63, didn’t reply to questions despatched to China’s State Council Data Workplace.


A profession bureaucrat, Li was revealed because the decide for China’s quantity two position in October when Xi unveiled a management line-up stacked with loyalists.

At the moment, Li had been recognized for overseeing the harrowing COVID lockdown earlier final yr of Shanghai’s 25 million individuals, which shut town’s financial system and left psychological scars amongst its residents. That made him a goal of anger however did nothing to derail his promotion.

Li was additionally instrumental in pushing for China’s unexpectedly sudden finish to its zero-COVID coverage late final yr, Reuters reported this month.

Individuals who have interacted with Li say they discovered him practical-minded, an efficient bureaucratic operator and supportive of the personal sector – a stance that will be anticipated in somebody whose profession put him answerable for a few of China’s most economically dynamic areas.

As Communist Social gathering chief between 2002 to 2004 in his residence metropolis of Wenzhou, a hotbed of entrepreneurialism, Li got here throughout as open-minded and prepared to pay attention, stated Zhou Dewen, who represented small and midsize enterprises within the metropolis.

“He took a liberal method of granting personal corporations default entry to enter the market, besides when explicitly banned by regulation, slightly then the standard method of preserving personal corporations out by default,” stated Zhou.

Craig Allen, president of the U.S.-China Enterprise Council and a former U.S. official, stated Li sought to degree the enjoying subject for overseas companies, pointing to the pace with which U.S. carmaker Tesla was in a position to get its Shanghai manufacturing facility there operational in 2019.

“Clearly nothing acquired in the best way as soon as a call was made. There was a readability of a sort in his determination making, an authority, and that actually helps,” stated Allen, describing Li as snug in his personal pores and skin.

Nonetheless, a number of observers warning in opposition to placing an excessive amount of weight on Li’s expertise in a enterprise hub reminiscent of Shanghai, since Xi has steadily tightened Communist Social gathering management and brought the financial system in a extra statist path.

“Now Li is a nationwide chief, working underneath a market-sceptic boss, and he has to steadiness progress with a variety of social, technological, and geopolitical objectives,” stated Neil Thomas, senior analyst at Eurasia.


Even by the opaque requirements of Chinese language politics, there may be little public details about Li’s background or private life.

Born in Ruian county in what’s now Wenzhou, the 17-year-old Li went to work in 1976 at an irrigation station in his hometown, a fascinating job in what turned out to be the ultimate yr of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution.

Li entered Zhejiang Agricultural College in 1978, the yr that campuses had been reopened in China and competitors for locations was fierce. He obtained grasp’s levels from the central social gathering college in Beijing and Hong Kong Polytechnic College.

It was in Zhejiang, residence to a few of China’s greatest personal corporations – the place Xi was provincial social gathering secretary and Li was his chief of employees between 2004 and 2007 – that the 2 males would have constructed their private bond.

American writer Robert Lawrence Kuhn, who met Li and Xi collectively in 2005 and 2006, stated the 2 shared a simple rapport.

“In contrast to most different staffers of high leaders, Li was no wallflower,” Kuhn instructed Reuters.

“Within the presence of Xi, he felt snug and assured sufficient to place himself ahead to interact me, which tells me he’s not anxious his boss may assume he’s attempting to steal his limelight,” Kuhn stated.

Nevertheless, management watchers stated there are limits to what Li will be capable to do.

“Li could make some repairs right here and there, however he will not tear down the wall and construct one thing new,” stated Chen Daoyin, former affiliate professor at Shanghai College of Political Science and Legislation, and now a commentator based mostly in Chile. (Reporting by Yew Lun Tian, Laurie and Chen Joe Money; Further reporting by the Shanghai newsroom and Julie Zhu in Hong Kong; Enhancing by Tony Munroe and Lincoln Feast)

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