Li Keqiang was once tipped to be President of China. What happened?

Li Keqiang, the former Premier of the People’s Republic of China, was at one point considered a top contender for the presidency. A key member of the “fifth generation” of Chinese leadership, Li had extensive experience in national governance and was often mentioned alongside Xi Jinping in discussions of probable successors to Hu Jintao. However, it was Xi who eventually assumed the presidency in 2013, while Li settled into the role of Premier.

Several factors likely contributed to Xi’s ascendancy over Li. First, Xi’s familial connections undoubtedly played a significant role. As the son of Xi Zhongxun, a revolutionary veteran and a former Vice Premier, Xi was born into what is known as China’s “red aristocracy.” This influential background likely tipped the scales in his favor in the upper echelons of Chinese politics.

Second, there’s the question of factional politics. The Chinese Communist Party is not a monolithic entity, but rather composed of several factions. Li Keqiang, being largely associated with the Communist Youth League faction, led by former President Hu Jintao, was at a disadvantage compared to Xi Jinping. Xi was associated with the powerful “princeling” faction, composed of descendants of early Chinese Communist leaders. This gave him broad support across multiple influential groups.

Additionally, Li’s economic policies may have also played a part in his failure to reach the presidency. His “Likonomics” approach, which promoted deleveraging, structural adjustments, and pro-growth policies, has had mixed results, leaving room for his detractors to question his leadership ability.

Furthermore, it is also be possible that, as the top choice of the outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao, Li was seen as a continuance of old policies and not the fresh start that some within the Party may have wanted.

In conclusion, Li Keqiang’s path to the Chinese presidency was blocked by a combination of internal politics, factional support, and potentially his economic policy choices. His journey underscores the complexities of leadership transitions in a country known for its opaque political machinations.

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