Li Keqiang, former Premier of the State Council (government), who was second in the Chinese Communist Party during the first and second terms of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s administration (2013-2023), passed away suddenly from heart disease on the 27th. He died at the age of 68.
China Central (CCTV) reported on this day, “Comrade Li Keqiang, who was resting in Shanghai, suddenly developed heart disease on the 26th,” and “rescue workers did their best, but he died at 10:10 on the 27th.”
● President Xi’s ‘last competitor’
Former Prime Minister Lee is evaluated as President Xi’s last competitor. Since former Prime Minister Li, no key Chinese official has been able to speak bitterly to President Xi. Former Prime Minister Li competed fiercely with President Xi in 2012 for the position of supreme leader to succeed President Hu Jintao, but lost.
The power division system, in which the party general secretary and president takes charge of politics, diplomacy, and defense, and the prime minister oversees the economy, has become meaningless as power is concentrated in President Xi. Over the next 10 years, former Prime Minister Li emphasized a free market economy, but President Xi insisted on a socialist controlled economy led by the Communist Party, leading to conflict.
Although his power and influence gradually disappeared, former Prime Minister Lee continued his convictions. His remarks about ‘600 million people living in poverty in China’ and his claim to ‘vitalize the street vendor economy’ are representative examples.
Former Prime Minister Li shocked not only China but also the world by saying at a press conference in May 2020, “The monthly income of 600 million Chinese people is only 1,000 yuan (about 170,000 won).” At the time, President Xi said, “We have reduced the number of people living in absolute poverty from 56 million in 2015 to 5.5 million in 2019,” and emphasized, “We will achieve zero by 2020.” It was as if he was directly rebelling against it.
In June of that year, he advocated a ‘street vendor economy’ that fully allows street vendors to solve the poverty problem, but was completely ignored. Due to the spread of the new coronavirus infection (Corona 19), his economic activities almost stopped and quarantine became a top priority, and his authority and role disappeared. He was once called the ‘Sun of the Future’ and said that ‘the fifth generation leadership will be the era of the Xi Jinping-Li Keqiang double carriage’, but he was reduced to a ‘ghost prime minister’. A British economist said, “He is the weakest prime minister in China’s history,” and added, “But his problem is not incompetence, but impotence.”
● Relegated to ‘ghost prime minister’
Former Prime Minister Li was born in Hefei, Anhui Province, in July 1955 and was a gifted child from a young age. When the university entrance exam was revived in 1977 immediately after the Cultural Revolution, he passed the law school at Peking University, overcoming a competition of 29 to 1, and entered the first class with the best grades. He was also active in the student council and was close to his classmate and dissident Wang Juntao, who had defected to the United States. However, he was also evaluated as having “collapsed the great democracy movement in Beijing for the sake of his political ambitions.”
Former Prime Minister Li is an economic expert who received a master’s and doctoral degree in economics from Peking University. His 1985 book ‘Discussing the three-tiered structure of the Chinese economy’ won the Sun Yefang Paper Award for Economic Science, the highest award in Chinese economics. His wife, Mrs. Chenghong (程虹), is an English scholar who majored in American naturalistic literature, and it is known that the two usually spoke in English. This can be said to be the background that led to liberal thinking. Chinese experts in Korea compared the name of Geukgang (克强) by saying that “softness overcomes strength (以柔克强, Lee Yu Geukgang).”
There is an analysis that the Chinese Communist Youth League effectively came to an end with the unexpected exit of former President Hu and the death of former Premier스포츠토토 ‘Little Hu’ Li at the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October last year.
The cheers of Chinese tourists when former Prime Minister Li visited the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang, Gansu Province last month, five months after leaving office, were widely interpreted as a reaction to the current difficult economic situation. Reflecting this, on the 27th, more than 500,000 commemorative posts were posted on Weibo, a Chinese social networking service (SNS), such as “We mourn with a sad heart,” “The people will forever remember you,” and “Why do great people pass away early.”
When he left office in March of this year, he told about 800 employees of the State Council, “Heaven is watching what people do.” There was an interpretation that it was aimed at President Xi’s omnipotent power.
On the 27th, the government expressed its condolences, saying, “As a close friend of Korea, we highly value his great contribution to the development of Korea-China relations,” and “We pray for his eternal rest.”