This is the sixth installment in a series of reports about the individuals comprising the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). These men are Chinese President Xi Jinping's closest advisors and the most powerful figures in China.
Li Qiang, the focus of this report, is the second-highest ranking member of the Standing Committee, second only to President Xi Jinping himself, to whom he is fiercely loyal. Li was formerly CCP chief in Shanghai, and despite criticism he has faced for his management of the COVID-19 pandemic in his city, he appears to have retained Xi's trust. He is expected to become Chinese premiere in March 2023, becoming the first premier since the PRC's founding to not have previously served as vice premier.
For the previous reports in this series, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1653 about intellectual Wang Huning, MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1656 about Li Zhanshu, MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1658 about Li Keqiang, MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1660 about Wang Yang, and MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1665 about Zhao Leji. Note that Li Zhanshu, Li Keqiang, and Wang Yang were members of the previous Standing Committee, and were voted out of their positions last month at the 20th National People's Congress. Wang Huning and Zhao Leji are current Standing Committee members.
Li Qiang was born on July 23, 1959, in Rui'an, in the Zhejiant province. He holds a postgraduate degree from the Party School of the CCP Central Committee and an MBA from Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
In 2004, during Xi Jinping's tenure as the Zhejiang province party secretary, Li Qiang became secretary-general of the Zhejiang provincial committee.
Li served as Secretary of Zhejiang Provincial Political and Legal Affairs Committee in February 2011. In November 2011, he became Deputy Secretary and Secretary-General of Zhejiang CCP Provincial Committee and Secretary of Zhejiang CCP Provincial Political and Legal Affairs Committee. At the 18th National People's Congress, in November 2012, he was elected an alternate member of the CCP Central Committee.
Li became vice governor and acting governor of Zhejiang Provincial Government, his first ministerial position, in late 2012, and in 2013 he was elected governor of Zhejiang Provincial People's Government.
In 2016, he was appointed Secretary of the Jiangsu Provincial Committee, and chairman of the Standing Committee of Jiangsu Provincial People's Congress in 2017. He became a member of the CCP Central Committee in 2017, and soon after he was elected to the Central Committee's Political Bureau, a national leadership position.
Subsequently, he became the secretary of the CCP Shanghai Municipal Committee, in October 2017, and became the first senior official to govern Zhejiang, Jiangsu, and Shanghai, China's three most economically developed regions. In June 2022, he was re-elected CCP chief of Shanghai.
Li Qiang had no previous experience working in the central state organs in Beijing, and is therefore an outsider to the Beijing officialdom, which is a "deep state" in its own right. He will also be a new face for the West. For these reasons, Li is considered the "dark horse" of the new Standing Committee.
Li Qiang And Xi Jinping
Like the other new members of the Standing Committee, Li is loyal to Xi Jinping, and being surrounded by loyalists will be politically advantageous for Xi if he decides to "solve the Taiwan question". It should be noted that Li and several other close Xi advisors are from China's wealthier coastal provinces and are very familiar with Taiwan affairs, particularly due to their provinces' proximity to Taiwan.
If Xi is pleased with Li's performance as premiere over the next five years, it is possible that he will allow him to serve a second term. In the event of an emergency, such as a rapid decline in Xi's health, it is possible that Li would fill his position as chairman of the CCP.
*Chris King is Senior Research Fellow for the MEMRI Chinese Media Studies Project. King was an active participant in the student protests in China in 1989.