Li Ruihuan

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Li Ruihuan
Li Ruihuan.png
6th Chairman of the National Committee of the CPPCC
In office
March 1993 – March 2003
DeputyYe Xuanping
Preceded byLi Xiannian
Succeeded byJia Qinglin
Member of the 14,15th CPC Politburo Standing Committee
In office
19 October 1992 – 15 November 2002
General SecretaryJiang Zemin
Personal details
Born (1934-09-17) September 17, 1934 (age 84)
Baodi District, Tianjin, China
Political partyCommunist Party of China
Alma materBeijing Construction Engineering College
Li Ruihuan
Traditional Chinese李瑞環
Simplified Chinese李瑞环

Li Ruihuan (born September 17, 1934) is a retired Chinese politician. Li was a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, the country's de facto top decision making body, between 1992 and 2002. Li served as Chairman of the 9th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) from 1993 to 2003; before that, he was the party chief of Tianjin.


A native of Baodi County, Tianjin, and originally a carpenter, he was elected and reelected chairman of the 8th and 9th CPPCC National Committees in March 1993 and March 1998. Li Ruihuan is the sixth chairman of the CPPCC after Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, Deng Yingchao, and Li Xiannian. Since this post has been held by some of the most prominent revolutionary elders, it is spoken of "noble and sacred" by reverent observers. The principal duties of the CPPCC chief are mainly advisory and conciliatory; Li's duties focused on mitigating conflict between different sectors of society, conferring on state affairs, and providing ideas for the top bodies of PRC central government for reference.

Li, born into ordinary peasant family on September 1934; worked as construction worker in Beijing Third Construction Company, 1951–1965; attended spare-time architecture engineering institute, 1958–1963; and received college certificate.

Inventor of the "simplified calculation method," which updated the traditional "lofting method" in carpentry, Li was known as "young Lu Ban," a legendary master carpenter in ancient China. He rose up the ranks of the construction industry and Tianjin politics.

During his tenure of office as Tianjin mayor, he actively supported institutional restructuring, focusing attention on improving urban housing and public transport conditions. He gained great popularity among Tianjin residents with his call-in radio and television programs through which he directly answered residents' inquires in concrete terms.

Politburo Standing Committee[edit]

From 1989 on, he has been Standing Committee member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. Observers speculated that the former carpenter who worked on the Great Hall of the People would play a key role in the question of leadership succession at the 16th party congress as CPPCC chief, if not also the future direction of political reform.

Although the former Tianjin mayor has the same seniority as Jiang Zemin, he has been relegated to the sidelines by Jiang, who became the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China since 1989. By 2002 there were reports from Beijing that Li had informed the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) three times of his desire to retire at the 2002 16th party congress.


These reports struck many as unusual, given that Li, then 68, will be two years shy of 70 - the supposed retirement age for Politburo members - at the 16th congress, which endorsed a new CPC leadership. While sixty-eight would be considered retirement age most elsewhere, this is not an advanced age whatsoever for a top CPC cadre; in fact, at 68 Li was the second youngest member of the then seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, behind only Hu Jintao. Thus, many Li supporters assumed that he and Vice President Hu would have been the only two PSC incumbents to have their five-year terms renewed at the 16th congress. Thus, he would have been in place likely to assume the post of chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC), a post held by Li Peng prior to the party congress.

Some were even expecting that Li Ruihuan would have formed a triumvirate together in the post-16th congress PSC with Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao. Many expected that such a triumvirate would have relegated Jiang's "Shanghai clique," focused more on the countryside, and pushed for political reforms. All three cadres were considered to have enjoyed a good relationship since all three have links to the Communist Youth League, deemed a liberal offshoot of the CPC. Among current PSC members, Li is considered by most observers to be the most liberal, particularly on political matters.

While controversial among many in the party, who fear that he might be a Chinese Mikhail Gorbachev, Li's views about political liberalization, however, do not entail Western-style models. Li has favored an incremental, steady approach, such as fostering checks and balances by giving some real power to the 'democratic parties' as well as other groupings of non-CPC professionals and businessmen. It is at Li's insistence as CPPCC chief that the status of non-CPC members as well as members of the eight "democratic parties" (civic society groupings of academics, professionals and businessmen) has been raised. Now, most provincial and municipal governments have set aside a virtual quota of senior positions to be filled by non-party politicians and experts.

According to some China analysts, Li upset Jiang by disagreeing with the then-Party General Secretary's decision to suppress the Falun Gong movement. Li and then-Premier Zhu Rongzhi had met with Falun Gong representatives shortly after a large crowd demonstrated outside of Party headquarters in April 1999, and both were believed to have favored a conciliatory approach. But after the suppression was enacted months later, Li did not make any public denunciation of the group, in contrast to other government officials.

His ostensibly early retirement led many to conclude that Jiang's Shanghai faction, and its representative figures such as Zeng Qinghong and Wu Bangguo, might have outmaneuvered Li and his supporters at the 16th party congress. As a retired official, the extent of his influence is unknown.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Hu Qili
Mayor of Tianjin
Succeeded by
Nie Bichu
Preceded by
Ni Zhifu
Communist Party Secretary Tianjin
Succeeded by
Tan Shaowen
Preceded by
Li Xiannian
Chairman of the National Committee of the CPPCC
Succeeded by
Jia Qinglin