The Chinese parliament, which is largely won over to the Communist Party, elected Li Qiang Prime Minister on Saturday March 11, after a vote in which he was the only candidate. Considered one of the trusted men closest to Xi Jinping, Li Qiang therefore became the new head of the Chinese State Council, the day after the reappointment for a third term of the Chinese president. Xi Jinping, 69, won a new five-year term as president of China on Friday March 10, after a unanimous vote in parliament.
Since the Parliament was, in practice, subservient to the ruling Communist Party (CCP), the outcome of the ballot was in no doubt. Li Qiang, the only candidate for the post of prime minister, obtained 2,936 votes for, three against and eight abstentions. The journalists were asked to leave the hemicycle when the deputies formalized their vote in the ballot box.
Li Qiang, 63, a former Communist Party official in Shanghai, whose image had been somewhat tarnished in the spring during the chaotic confinement of his city, succeeds Li Keqiang, in office since 2013. After his appointment, Li Qiang has sworn to the Constitution. With his right fist raised and his left hand on the document, he vowed to "work hard for the building of a great modern socialist country".
The Chinese Premier heads the State Council. Its function is traditionally associated with the day-to-day management of the country and the conduct of macroeconomic policy.
Li Qiang, who had been propelled to the rank of number two in the Communist Party (CCP) in October, has no experience at the central government level, unlike almost all former prime ministers. However, he has had a rich career in local government and has held important leadership positions in the wealthy coastal provinces of Zhejiang (east) and Jiangsu (east).
Li Qiang was Xi Jinping's chief of staff when the latter was party leader in Zhejiang between 2004 and 2007. His rapid promotions since then reflect the high level of confidence placed in him by the Chinese number one.
Saturday at the People's Palace in Beijing, Xi Jinping and Li Qiang appeared accomplices at the time of the vote, exchanging pleasantries with a smile. Li Qiang takes office at a time when the world's second-largest economy is facing a sharp slowdown, weakened by nearly three years of an inflexible so-called "zero Covid" policy. For 2023, the government has set a GDP growth target of "around 5%", one of the lowest in decades.
Outgoing Prime Minister Li Keqiang, an economist by training, had seen his plans for economic reform hampered by the growing authority of Xi Jinping. "It is unlikely that Li Qiang has the authority to further develop" this path, political scientist Willy Lam of the Chinese University of Hong Kong told AFP. Especially since Xi Jinping "insists on the need for stricter control of the economy by the state and the party", contrary to the practice in force since the end of the 1970s, underlines Mr. Lam.
On Saturday, the deputies also appointed Zhang Youxia and He Weidong as vice-presidents of the Central Military Commission (of which Xi Jinping is chairman), Zhang Jun inheriting the post of president of the Supreme Court. Ying Yong, former party leader of Hubei province (center) where the first cases of Covid-19 were discovered, was elected prosecutor general of the Supreme People's Procuratorate. Liu Jinguo becomes the head of the National Supervisory Commission, the body that deals with the fight against corruption.