Former Chinese Premier Li Keqiang dead at 68 of heart attack

Li Keqiang was a distinguished Chinese economist and politician who served as the Premier of the People’s Republic of China from 2013 to 2023. He also held the position of the second-ranked member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from 2012 to 2022. Li played a significant role in what is known as the “fifth generation of Chinese leadership,” along with Xi Jinping, who served as the CCP General Secretary. Li Keqiang, China’s former Premier, passed away from a heart attack, as reported by China Central Television. He suffered a heart attack on Thursday and passed away at 12:10 a.m. on Friday. The 68-year-old former official had been residing in Shanghai recently.

Li Keqiang

At the 18th CCP National Congress held in the fall of 2012, Li was elevated to the second position on the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC). It was widely expected that he would assume the role of Premier. This marked a departure from the previous convention set in 1997, where the Premier held the third position on the PSC, following the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, who occupied the second position.

Li served as China’s No. 2 leader from 2013 to 2023. He was known for advocating for private businesses but saw a reduction in his authority after President Xi Jinping consolidated power, becoming the most influential leader in China and tightening control over the economy and society. Li, an English-speaking economist educated at elite Peking University, was once considered a contender to succeed then-Communist Party leader Hu Jintao in 2013 but was ultimately passed over in favor of Xi. While he initially supported a more liberal market economy, he had to adapt to Xi’s preference for increased state control.

During his tenure, Li aimed to improve conditions for entrepreneurs, recognizing their role in job creation and wealth generation. However, under Xi’s leadership, the ruling party strengthened state control over various industries, including technology, and promoted economic self-reliance. This stance led to some foreign companies feeling unwelcome, as Xi’s administration expanded anti-spying laws and conducted raids on consulting firms.

In October 2022, Li was removed from the Standing Committee during a party congress, despite being two years away from the informal retirement age of 70. On that same day, Xi granted himself a third five-year term as the leader of the party, breaking with the tradition where his predecessors would step down after 10 years. Xi filled the highest ranks of the party with loyalists, putting an end to the era of consensus leadership and potentially solidifying his position as the leader for an indefinite period.