Li Keqiang (pinyin: Lǐ Kèqiáng; pronounced [lì kʰɤ̂tɕʰjɑ̌ŋ], born 1 July 1955) is a Chinese economist and the current Premier of the People's Republic of China and party secretary of the State Council. In his capacity as Premier, Li is China's head of government as well as the leading figure behind its economic policy. He is also the second ranked member of the CPC Politburo Standing Committee, the de facto highest decision-making body of the country. From 2008 to 2013, Li served as the First Vice-Premier under then-Premier Wen Jiabao. During this tenure, Li's official portfolio included economic development, price controls, finance, climate change, and macroeconomic management.
Li rose through the party ranks through the Communist Youth League. From 1998 to 2004, Li served as the Governor of Henan and the province's Party secretary, and then the Liaoning party secretary, an office that made him first-in-charge in that province. Li is a leading figure in the "fifth generation" (Xi-Li Administration) of Communist Party leadership.
Li Keqiang was born on 1 July 1955 in Dingyuan County, Anhui Province. His father was a local official in Anhui. Li graduated from high school in 1974, during the Cultural Revolution, and was sent for rural labour in Fengyang County, Anhui, where he eventually joined the Communist Party of China and made his way in becoming the party head of the local production team. He was awarded the honour of Outstanding Individual in the Study of Mao Zedong Thought during this time.
He refused his father's offer of grooming him for the local county's party leadership and entered the School of Law at Peking University, where he received his LLB and became the Chairman of the University's Student Council. He would go on to acquire a PhD in Economics. In 1980, he became the Communist Youth League Secretary at Peking University. He entered the top leadership of the Communist Youth League (CYL) in 1982 as a member of its Secretariat, and has worked closely with former Party General Secretary Hu Jintao, who also rose through the ranks of the CYL, ever since. Li became the organization's General Secretary in 1993, and served until 1998. He is a representative member of the first generation to have risen from the CYL leadership.
Li became the youngest Chinese provincial governor in June 1998 when he was appointed Governor of Henan at the age of 43. According to provincial officials working with him at the time, Li refused to participate in any banquets or large fancy events not related to government activities. During his time as governor a public sense of his ‘bad luck’ grew due to the occurrence of three major fires in the province.
He is known to be outspoken, and led economic development in Henan, transforming the poor inland region into an attractive area for investment. Li did not spend time pursuing superficial projects. He trekked through all regions of the province trying to search for a comprehensive solution to its growing problems. Henan jumped in national GDP rankings from 28th in the early 1990s to 18th in 2004, when Li left Henan. However, his government was relatively ineffective at curbing the HIV/AIDS epidemic that was affecting the rural areas of the province.
He was transferred to work as the Party Chief in Liaoning in December 2004. In Liaoning, he is known for the "Five-points to one Line" project, where he linked up Dalian and Dandong, as well as a series of other ports into a comprehensive network to improve trade flow.
By virtue of having been elevated to second in seniority on the newly constituted Standing Committee of the Politburo in November 2012, Li was confirmed as the successor to Premier Wen and became Premier of the State Council in March 2013.
Predictions he would eventually advance to the national level at the 17th Party Congress proved correct when he was elected to the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) in October 2007. He was succeeded in his provincial post by Governor Zhang Wenyue. Li was among those touted as a possible successor to Hu Jintao, whose second term as CPC General Secretary ended in November 2012. Hu Jintao was however succeeded by another member of the Politburo, Xi Jinping. At the 2008 National People's Congress, he was elected Vice-Premier, first in rank. This position makes it seem more likely that he will succeed Premier Wen Jiabao. As a result of this, it is considered that he has lost out to Xi Jinping in the internal power struggle.
Since his ascendancy to the PSC, Li has taken on the most important portfolios in the Chinese government, ostensibly being groomed for his upcoming premiership. Li's first major appearance internationally was at the 2010 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The event was seen as an "acid test" for Li, whereby he succinctly presented China's long-term vision for development in front of world business and political leaders. In particular, Li briefed the WEF on China's commitment to sustainable development, green energy, decrease the income gap, and the modernization of key strategic industries. While reiterating Beijing's commitment to peaceful development and its focus in increasing domestic demand in the face of external pressures during the global financial crisis, Li also warned against protectionism, saying "opening up can be both bilateral and multilateral... in this sense, one plus one is more often than not bigger than two." He also touched upon the importance of international development, and international financial reform. He called for a global governance structure that was "more reflective of the changes in the global political and economic landscape."
In February 2010, Li gave a speech to ministerial and provincial-level leaders about the importance of changing the economic structure of the country to be better poised for future growth. The speech was published with minor omissions in the 1 June issue of Qiushi, the Communist Party's political theory publication. Li said that China has come to a historical juncture whereby a change in the economic structure must take place for the country to continue its path of growth. Li particularly emphasized the need to boost domestic consumption, and said that urbanization is crucial in this phase. Li also emphasized that China should be moving towards a more middle class-oriented society with an "olive"-shaped wealth distribution, with the majority of the country's population and wealth belonging to the middle class.
He has also reiterated the importance of industrialization, urbanization and agricultural modernization in China in order to improve its competitiveness, food security, energy security, affordable housing, and healthcare.
In August 2011, Li went on an official visit to Hong Kong, including a trip to the University of Hong Kong. The political sensitivities and heightened security surrounding the event resulted in the Hong Kong 818 incident, an event that caused controversy in the territory.
On 15 March 2013, Li Keqiang was elected by the 12th National People's Congress as Premier, the number two position of the Chinese government after General Secretary and President Xi Jinping. He replaced Wen Jiabao, who retired after serving two terms as premier. Of the nearly 3,000 legislators of the Congress, 2,940 voted for him, three against, and six abstained. He was elected for a five-year term, but is expected to serve two terms like his predecessor Wen. On 16 March, the Congress selected Zhang Gaoli, Liu Yandong, Wang Yang, and Ma Kai as vice premiers. He gave his first major speech March 17 at the conclusion of the National Peoples Congress, calling for frugality in government, a fairer distribution of income and continued economic reform. Li has focused his attention on China to move towards a consumption based economy instead of relying on export led growth.
Li Keqiang made his first foreign visit to India on 18 May 2013 in a bid to resolve border disputes and to stimulate economic relations. He said the choice of India as the first international visit highlights Chinese importance in its relations with the country. During his visit to Pakistan he met with top leadership of country and expressed his views "As Pakistan's closest friend and brother, we would like to provide as much assistance as we can for the Pakistani side".
Li Keqiang also visited Switzerland and Germany, it is his first EU trip and he met two countries' leaders.
Li is married to Cheng Hong, a professor at Capital University of Economics and Business in Beijing. His father-in-law was once the vice-secretary of the Communist Youth League Central Committee.