Li Qiang Elected China’s Premier as Xi Tightens Grip on Power

BEIJING — Li Qiang, the former Communist Party chief of Shanghai, was officially elected China’s premier on Saturday, putting him in charge of steering the country’s post-pandemic economic recovery as the second-in-command.

Li Qiang, a close ally of Chinese President Xi Jinping, was elected by a vote of 2,936-3 with eight lawmakers abstaining at the National People’s Congress.[0] He replaces Li Keqiang in the position and will be the first premier since the founding of the People’s Republic never to have served previously in the central government.

At the age of 63, Li Qiang will be taking the helm of the State Council, China’s Cabinet. His main job will be managing the economy, but with President Xi Jinping accumulating more control over the years, the duty of premier has been reduced.

The elevation of Li Qiang is the latest sign of Xi’s consolidation of power.[1] Li and Xi’s relationship dates back to the early 2000s when Li served as the party secretary of Wenzhou, a coastal city in Zhejiang province. When Xi Jinping was serving as the Zhejiang party chief, he later had the future president as his chief of staff.[0]

Li’s close ties with Xi will empower him to get things done, leadership-watchers said. Li Qiang’s role in reviving China’s battered economy in the wake of COVID-19 curbs will be critical.[0] How much power he wields in this position will be closely monitored.

0. “Xi ally Li Qiang becomes China’s new premier” Axios, 11 Mar. 2023,

1. “Li Qiang set for nod as China’s No. 2 leader at annual parliament” Nikkei Asia, 10 Mar. 2023,