Asia Pacific / Politics

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang re-elected, but influence expected to wane

Kyodo

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was re-elected for a second five-year term by the National People’s Congress on Sunday, although it is believed that he will have less influence within the government as President Xi Jinping moves to bolster his influence at home and abroad.

Xi confidant Wang Qishan, who was appointed vice president by the country’s largely rubber-stamp parliament Saturday, is expected to take charge of various economic matters, an area that has traditionally been the purview of the premier.

Li has at times managed economic policies but his influence in that field is likely to decrease with the appointment of Wang as vice president.

Wang, who was one of the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee of the ruling Communist Party of China, served as vice premier in charge of financial affairs and worked on economic negotiations with the United States.

Xi is expected to ask Wang to deal with trade disputes with Washington, which has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, escalating tensions with China and other trading partners.

Two legislators voted against Li’s reappointment as premier, with 2,964 in favor.

Li, an economic expert who graduated from Peking University, is known as a confidant of Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao. The pair worked together at the Communist Youth League of China, an organization composed of the country’s young political elite.

As Xi apparently desires to remain in office indefinitely, he has been trying to diminish the league’s influence.

Xi, who has promised to intensify the fight against corruption, also ousted Ling Jihua, a onetime top aide to Hu, for suspected bribery.

Ling was one of the prime targets of Xi’s anti-graft campaign that critics say is partly aimed at helping him further consolidate his grip on power and stave off influence from his predecessor’s faction.

Xi was re-elected for a second five-year term as China’s president by parliament Saturday.

On Sunday, the National People’s Congress also appointed Yang Xiaodu, a member of the Political Bureau of the ruling party, as director of the new national supervisory commission, under which various anti-graft bodies will be integrated.

A provision regarding the new anti-graft agency was adopted earlier this month by parliament to be inserted in China’s constitution, the first amendment to the charter since 2004.

China’s congress agreed to appoint Yang, with 2,953 voting in favor, six against and seven abstaining.