Once tipped for president, now tasked with fixing the economy


Next premier:For a while, Li Keqiang, who seems set to take over the role of China’s premier from Wen Jiabao, looked like a possible candidate for the top position because of his close affiliations to the Communist Youth League, the power base of his outgoing president, Hu Jintao.

In the end, Xi Jinping was the candidate who bridged the divides within the party.

Mr Li, who speaks English and comes from a more liberal background than Mr Xi, will take over as premier, the role of which is largely aimed at fixing the economy.

His policy focus will be on encouraging more innovation, narrowing the wealth gap, improving healthcare and increasing employment.

Mr Li (57) has given speeches in English “unheard of until now” and is very much a protégé of Mr Hu. In some of these speeches he has spoken of the need for economic reform, something which puts him into the same boat as his predecessor Wen Jiabao, who has also made regular calls for reform.

His political upbringing took place during the ideological frenzy of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), when he was forced to abandon his studies and go and work in the countryside, like millions of other educated people.

Afterwards, he studied law and economics at the elite Peking University. During the crackdown on the student-led democracy movement in 1989, he was involved in trying to mend ties between the Communist Youth League and the student protesters.

His career has also managed to survive his handling of an explosion of HIV/Aids cases related to illegal blood transfusion rings in Henan province in 1998, when he was governor there.

He managed to rescue the situation, organising highly public displays of compassion and help for the victims. He has also been party secretary in Liaoning province.

His wife, Cheng Hong, teaches English and American Literature. They have a daughter, who also graduated from Peking University and reportedly studies in the US.