Li Keqiang, a former premier of China, has passed away at the age of 68 due to a sudden heart attack.
Once seen as a future leader of the country, Li’s political influence waned in recent years as President Xi Jinping consolidated his power.
Li Keqiang was resting in Shanghai when he experienced a heart attack.
Despite valiant efforts to revive him, he sadly passed away at just past midnight on Friday, as reported by state broadcaster CCTV.
During his final term as premier, which concluded earlier this year, Li stood out as the only top official who did not align with President Xi’s inner circle of loyalists.
Li Keqiang, often regarded as one of the sharpest political minds of his generation, had a distinguished academic background.
He gained admission to Peking University Law School shortly after it reopened following the turbulent Cultural Revolution under Mao Zedong.
The news of Li’s passing has deeply saddened people on Chinese social media.
Many expressed their shock and grief, with one user on Weibo saying, “This is too sudden; he was so young,” and another likening his death to “losing a pillar of our home.”
A Humble Beginning and Rising to Prominence
Li Keqiang hailed from a modest family and was born in Dingyuan County in eastern China’s Anhui province in July 1955.
Despite his humble beginnings, he climbed the ranks, becoming the youngest provincial governor in China and eventually earning a place in the top echelons of the Chinese Communist Party’s central leadership, the Politburo Standing Committee.
At one point, there was speculation that he might be groomed to succeed the former leader, Hu Jintao.
He was widely considered to be Hu’s protege and was the last appointee of the Hu administration to remain on the Politburo Standing Committee before stepping down earlier this year.
The Hu era was characterized by opening up to the outside world and increased tolerance for new ideas.
He was known for his pragmatic economic policies, focusing on reducing income inequality and making housing more affordable.
A Pragmatic Economist Who “Told It Like It Is”
In a political landscape dominated by engineers, Li stood out as an economist who was unafraid to address China’s economic challenges openly in search of solutions.
His economic approach, known as “Likonomics,” aimed to reduce China’s reliance on debt-driven growth and steer the economy towards self-sufficiency.
However, by 2016, the party’s official publication, People’s Daily, shifted its focus from “Likonomics” to President Xi’s economic ideology, which emphasized microeconomic reforms and supply-side changes.
Towards the end of his tenure, China faced the challenges of the zero-Covid crisis.
Li acknowledged the immense economic pressure and urged officials to balance public health measures with economic growth.
He even appeared in public without a mask before China shifted its zero-Covid policy.
Ultimately, when faced with a choice between Li’s economic stance and President Xi’s unwavering commitment to maintaining strict zero-COVID measures, the decision was clear.
Li Keqiang’s passing marks the end of an era for a visionary leader who advocated for pragmatic economic policies and open dialogue, leaving a significant impact on China’s political landscape.