LI KEQIANG

LI KEQIANG

20111030-China li keqiang.jpg
Li Keqiang
Li Keqiang, a former the vice premier, was selected to be China's new prime minister at the 18th Party Congress in November 2012. Li is regarded as an intellectual and potential reformer. He was a law students at Peking University in the late 1970s when ideas about free speech and democracy were gaining an audience after the Cultural Revolution, and rose through the ranks of the Communist Youth League and made a name for himself as party boss of Hubei Province, which surrounds Beijing, and was close to national party chief Hu Yaobang. Li has long been regarded as a protégée of Hu. In March 2008, Li was appointed Vice Premier. He is a leading contender to replace Prime Minister Wen Jibao when he steps down in 2013.

Li Keqiang's career has seen him rise from manual labourer on a rural commune to provincial party chief and now to China’s Prime Minister. The BBC reported: “He has a reputation for caring about China's less well-off, perhaps the result of a modest upbringing. He is close to Hu Jintao, who he worked with in the party's youth league, and he is widely expected to take over from Wen Jiabao as China's premier. But his easy-going manner and consensual style has prompted some to question whether he is dogged enough to tackle strong vested interests which dominate much of China's economy. [Source: BBC]

According to AP: Li “is a protege of President Hu Jintao. The two worked together in the Communist Youth League in the 1980s. Hu initially wanted Li to succeed him as party chief before accepting Xi. Li ran two important industrial provinces, and as vice-premier his portfolio includes health reforms, energy and food safety. Still, questions of inexperience on economy have dogged him as he prepares to take the post of premier, the top economy job in the country. [Ibid]

Keith B. Richburg wrote in Washington Post: “Li is described as an extremely intelligent self-taught speaker of English and a loyal Communist Party member who gave up a rare opportunity to study abroad when the party asked him to stay in China to work organizing students at Peking University as a top official in the Communist Youth League. It was at the university that Li made friendships with many outspoken pro-democracy advocates, some of whom were jailed or went into exile after the 1989 military crackdown at Tiananmen Square. But some said he is not ruthless enough for the party’s internal maneuverings—a fact that some colleagues said may have relegated him to the No. 2 job, and not the presidency.” [Source: Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post, November 10 2012]

Christopher Bodeen of Associated Press: Li Keqiang speaks English and comes from a generation of politicians schooled during a time of greater openness to liberal Western ideas than their predecessors. But he also has been a cautious bureaucrat who rose through, and is bound by, a consensus-oriented Communist Party that has been slow to reform its massive state-owned enterprises while reflexively stifling dissent—and he has been an enforcer keeping a lid on bad news. [Source: Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press, November 11, 2012]

Li is a Member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. Before he became premier he was secretary of the CPC Liaoning Provincial Committee and chairman of the Standing Committee of the Liaoning Provincial People's Congress. In the the 1990s and early 2000s Li rose to become the party's top official in Henan, and Liaoning province in the northeast, both of which saw economic growth, before he was promoted to become a deputy to Wen.

Li Keqiang’s Early Life

Li Keqiang is the son of a minor party official in eastern China's poor Anhui province. Like other youths his age, he was sent to the countryside to work as a manual labourer during the Cultural Revolution. According to China.org, the Beijing government website: Li Keqiang is an ethnic Han and native of Dingyuan, Anhui Province, born in July 1955. He joined the CPC in May 1976 and began working in March 1974 after graduating from the School of Economics of Peking University, majoring in economics. He is a Doctor of Economics. [Source: China.org]

Li reportedly rejected his father's offer of a local party career, enrolling instead at Beijing's Peking University to study law. Keith B. Richburg wrote in Washington Post: “Unlike Xi, a so-called princeling whose father, Xi Zhongxun, was a Mao-era military hero and later a governor and vice premier, Li comes to the top of China’s power structure without a revolutionary pedigree. Li’s father was a mid-level county official—“a small potato,” said one classmate—in Anhui province, one of China’s poorest areas. And unlike Xi and the other princelings, whose upward path was eased by family connections, Li was admitted to Peking University on the basis of his scores on the national entrance exam, or “gaokao,” when it was first reinstated in 1977 after being suspended during the Cultural Revolution. [Ibid]

Li entered Peking University, China’s most prestigious, in February 1978. Yang Baikui, who was an international politics student there, worked with Li for one year while at the school, translating an English book, “The Due Process of Law,” by British jurist Lord Denning. The book was brought to China by a professor, Gong Xiangrui, then one of China’s few British-trained lawyers, who inculcated his students in the ideas of Western-style liberalism and constitutional law. He learned a lot from the book he and I translated,” Yang recalled. “I’m not sure about democracy. But I’m sure he believes in constitutional government. And also the rule of law.”

Li Keqiang is fluent in English unlike Chinese President Xi Jinping. Li had little formal English training. But Yang and others recall how Li diligently carried a stack of small notecards, held together with an elastic band, with English words on one side and the Chinese translation on the other. He would study the cards while waiting for the bus or standing in line at the school cafeteria. He became so proficient that in 2011 he stunned listeners at a Hong Kong University event by breaking protocol and speaking for two minutes in fluent English. [Ibid]

Classmates at Peking University said Li embraced Western and liberal political theory, translating a book on the law by a British judge. After that his career has taken a more orthodox turn. In the 1980s he working as a bureaucrat while his former classmates protested in Tiananmen Square in 1989. "Li Keqiang has seriously disappointed the democrats and liberal intellectuals who knew him at Peking University in the 1980s, said Jean-Philippe Beja, of France's National Centre for Scientific Research.

After finishing Peking University, Li began working in the Communist Youth League while Yang became active in the pro-democracy movement that swept through China in the 1980s. Yang said he has not spoken with Li since they met at the Communist Youth League office a few days before the 1989 crackdown. But he said Li always “asks about my situation “and has other mutual friends from their school days convey his greetings. [Ibid]

Not much is known of Mr Li's personal life. Local media report that he is married to Cheng Hong, an English literature professor in Beijing, and they have one daughter, who is thought to be studying in the U.S. Li and his family have largely steered clear of the webs of corruption surrounding other leading Chinese officials, although questions have been raised over whether his brother's powerful position at the government tobacco monopoly clashes with Li's role in making health policy. [Ibid]

Li Keqiang’s Early Political Career


Li and Xi Xinping

According to the BBC profile: Li “joined the party in 1976 and became involved in student politics as head of the university's student federation from 1978 to 1982. After graduation, he slowly worked his way up the party ladder. The politician, said to be fluent in English, also completed his PhD in economics. He joined the upper echelons of the party's youth league in the 1980s, when Mr Hu was in charge of the organisation. [Ibid]

Christopher Bodeen of Associated Press: “Li's formative years are typical of the fifth generation of communist leaders. He was introduced to politics during the chaotic 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, then entered the prestigious Peking University. In contrast to the current leadership crop of engineers, Li studied law and economics, during a time of great liberal influence in the party and optimism in China. After graduation, Li went to work at the Communist Youth League, an organization that grooms university students for party roles, when it was headed by now-President Hu Jintao. After Beijing erupted in the 1989 pro-democracy protests centered on Tiananmen Square, Li originally tried to build bridges between the league and student activists. However, after martial law was declared, he quickly abandoned such efforts and within four years rose to head of the league at a time when it was becoming irrelevant to young people amid increasing choices and a growing market economy. [Source: Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press, November 11, 2012]

From 1974 to 1976 Li was a secondary school graduate sent to work at Dongling Brigade, Damiao Commune, Fengyang County, Anhui Province. From 1976 to 1978 he was Party branch secretary of Damiao Brigade, Damiao Commune, Fengyang County, Anhui Province. From 1978 to1982 Li was a student of the Department of Law and leading member of the Student Union of Peking University.

In 1982-1983 Li was Secretary of the CYLC committee of Peking University. From 1983 to 1985 Li was Director general of the School Department of the CYLC Central Committee and concurrently secretary general of the All-China Students' Federation, Alternate member of the Secretariat of the CYLC Central Committee. From 1985 to 1993 Li was a Member of the Secretariat of the CYLC Central Committee and vice chairman of the All-China Youth Federation (September-November 1991. During that time he studied at the Party School of CPC Central Committee.

From 1993-1998 Li was First secretary of the Secretariat of the CYLC Central Committee and concurrently president of the China Youth Political College (1988-1994: obtained MA and doctorate of Economics after attending the on-the-job postgraduate program on Economics at the School of Economics of Peking University).

In 1998-1999 Li was Deputy secretary of the CPC Henan Provincial Committee and acting governor of Henan Province. From 1999 to 2002 Li was Deputy secretary of the CPC Henan Provincial Committee and governor of Henan Province. In 2002-2003 he was Secretary of the CPC Henan Provincial Committee and governor of Henan Province. In 2003-2004 he was Secretary of the CPC Henan Provincial Committee and chairman of the Standing Committee of the Henan Provincial People's Congress.

Mr Li was chosen as deputy secretary of the party in Henan province in 1998 and became party secretary of Liaoning province in 2004. He became China's youngest provincial governor when he was tasked to run Henan. But his tenure in the rural and heavily populated province was marked by a series of unfortunate events - including fires and the spread of HIV through contaminated blood - that led to him to earn a reputation for "bad luck". He fortunately found success in boosting Henan's economy. He then impressed many by his efforts to revitalise Liaoning, an industrial province that suffered following China's economic reforms. [Ibid]

Keith B. Richburg wrote in Washington Post: “Li’s rise has not been without controversy. In Henan, he has been criticized for not taking steps to prevent the spread of the AIDS epidemic to hundreds of thousands of villagers who were contaminated after donating blood through a government program. Most of the infections happened before Li was governor. But one critic, Chen Bingzhong, a 79-year-old former head of China’s National Institute of Health Education, wrote an open letter that appeared on overseas Chinese Web sites in September calling Li “unsuitable to be the leader of a country.” [Source: Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post, November 10 2012]

Tao Jingzhou, another Anhui native and law school friend of Li’s who now works for an American law firm in Beijing, recalls sending a half-joking note to Li after his appointment as Henan governor. “Now you can take care of Middle China,” he wrote. “I hope one day you will take control of the Imperial state.” Now with his friend being elevated to premier, Tao said, “A lot of people have great expectations that things will change.”

Li Keqiang’s Later Political Career

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Li Keqiang with Joe Biden
From 2004 to 2005 Li was Secretary of the CPC Liaoning Provincial Committee. From 2005 to 2007 he was Secretary of the CPC Liaoning Provincial Committee and chairman of the Standing Committee of the Liaoning Provincial People's Congress.

In 2007 Li was made of Member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. He was also secretary of the CPC Liaoning Provincial Committee and chairman of the Standing Committee of the Liaoning Provincial People's Congress. His other titles include: Member of the Fifteenth, Sixteenth and Seventeenth CPC Central Committees. Member of the Political Bureau and its Standing Committee of the Seventeenth CPC Central Committee. Member of the Standing Committee of the Eighth National People's Congress.

Christopher Bodeen of Associated Press: After Henan, Li's next posting was in the northeastern rustbelt province of Liaoning, where he oversaw a revival that drew foreign investment from BMW and Intel. One of the province's largest cities, the port of Dalian, even attracted the glitzy World Economic Forum, where global tycoons mixed with top Chinese leaders and captains of industry. In a U.S. State Department cable released by the Wikileaks organization, Li is quoted telling diplomats that Chinese economic growth statistics were "man-made," and saying he looked instead to electricity demand, rail cargo traffic and lending as more accurate indicators. [Source: Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press, November 11, 2012]

Since his 2007 appointment to the Standing Committee, Li has overseen modest progress in his areas of responsibility, including public health, food safety and housing, which have long been plagued by funding difficulties, lax supervision and soaring prices. He's maintained a steady, if low-key, schedule of meetings and speeches, with a visit last year to the Chinese autonomous region of Hong Kong attracting the greatest attention “ though not necessarily for the right reasons. The stifling security surrounding him and his unwillingness to meet with political critics seemed to cast him as a typical Chinese leader, tone deaf to public opinion in the former British colony that has maintained its own legal system and political freedoms. [Ibid]

In an April speech to the Boao Forum, a gathering of government officials and business leaders in southern China, Li made the case for structural reform of China's economy, citing the need for greater balance, coordination and stability. China wants to create an "open, transparent, fair, competitive, and predictable marketplace and legal environment," he said. Yet similar pledges have been made many times before, including in China's latest Five Year Plan, and questions remain about Li's willingness to take on vested interests, particularly in the state-owned enterprises, said Patrick Chovanec, a business professor at Beijing's Tsinghua University. [Ibid]

Li Keqiang, Reformer?

Keith B. Richburg wrote in Washington Post: “Li Keqiang is described by several former classmates and associates as a cautious political climber who moved up slowly through the Communist Party’s bureaucracy while quietly maintaining friendships with pro-democracy advocates. Li’s ties to known reformers have given some people here hope that once installed in the Chinese government’s No. 2 position—a promotion that is expected to be formalized at the conclusion of the party congress next week—he might become an inside advocate for changing the country’s autocratic, Leninist system. [Source: Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post, November 10 2012]

But friends and former associates also said that Li was always reticent when speaking, rarely revealing much about his personal views—leaving them to only guess that he shares the reform agenda. “He’s the kind of person whose mind you can’t really read,” said Dai Qing, a democracy activist who was jailed for nearly a year after the 1989 student protests. ‘some of his friends can still be regarded as liberal. Li Keqiang will still discuss politics with them,” Yang said. “The main difference between him and the 1980s dissidents is how fast or how slow China’s democratization should be. And how many steps it should take before China is democratized.”

Li Datong, who was fired as an editor of a China Youth Daily supplement for pushing the boundaries of official censorship, met Li Keqiang in the “90s and considers him a reformer—even though, like others, he said the incoming premier’s hands may be tied by the system. Li Keqiang is a product of the early 1980s, which was the era of enlightenment in China,” Li Datong said. “I always have high expectations for Li Keqiang, but his power is also very limited.”

Several other of Li’s former colleagues and classmates agreed with that assessment. “If we can expect any democracy, it will be democracy within the system, and Li will help Xi in doing this,” said Yan Huai, a former official with the Communists’ now-disbanded Young Cadres Bureau, who joined the 1989 protests and then left for the United States. “How far Xi walks will determine how far Li can go. He won’t walk in front of Xi. And neither will he lag behind him.”

He Qinhua, another law school classmate, said Li was likely to understand better than other Communist stalwarts the growing public demands for more accountability. “Li is not a conservative guy,” He said. But he added, “On political reform, the premier is not the one that can make the final decision. It’s the party general secretary.” Li, he added, “can do more in economic reform.”

Li’s doctoral thesis is in economics, and he has written more recent articles focused on China’s industrialization and how the shift to urbanization would improve agricultural conditions, leaving fewer farmers who were more productive. He has also written about the importance of building a stronger social welfare system. Li is also a realist. According to confidential U.S. diplomatic cables published by the group WikiLeaks, in 2007 he told then-U.S. Ambassador Clark T. Randt Jr. that economic figures coming out of China were mostly “unreliable.”

Li Keqiang, Cautious Enforcer?

According to the BBC profile: Mr Li has a reputation of being a friendly politician like his boss, Wen Jiabao. Some analysts also say that his understanding of economic reforms needed by China may be what the country needs. But others point out that Mr Li suffers from the image of being a passive leader. "Compared to Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang is much more cautious," said Bo Zhiyue, a senior research fellow at the East Asian Institute of the National University of Singapore. ''They have very different styles.''

While Mr Xi's "blue blood" shows in his self-confident manner, Mr Li is much less strident, a result of having to work hard for many years to get to where he is, Mr Bo added. A US diplomatic cable released by whistle-blowing website Wikileaks described Mr Li as "engaging and well-informed". In a private conversation with the US ambassador in 2007, he called China's economic figures "unreliable" and warned that official corruption was the biggest cause of public resentment, according to the leaked cables. [Ibid]

In January 2012 Li made a high-profile trip to Europe, and later reflected on ties between the continent and China in a May commentary published in the Financial Times newspaper. "The world today needs both Western thinking and Oriental vision," he wrote. "If China and Europe can both achieve success by development models suited to their respective conditions, we will make the world more harmonious and prosperous."

Christopher Bodeen of Associated Press: Li was governor of the agricultural province of Henan in 1998 during an unusual explosion of AIDS cases. Tens of thousands of people had contracted HIV from illegal blood-buying rings that pooled plasma and re-injected it into donors after removing the blood products. But Beijing hadn't acknowledged the problem yet, and Li oversaw a campaign to squelch reporting about it, harass activists and isolate affected villages. When the government finally did go public four years later, Li showed canny political instincts with a rapid course reversal, channeling government assistance to victims and making public shows of compassion. [Source: Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press, November 11, 2012]

"He just tried to escape from this crisis" at first, said Wan Yanhai, a prominent Chinese AIDS activist who fled to the United States with his family in 2010 following increasing police harassment. "He's probably not a bad guy, but he's not shown himself to be very capable of managing crises in a strong and responsible way."

Li had been seen as Hu's preferred successor, but the need to balance party factions prompted the leadership to choose a consensus candidate, Xi Jinping. Li's relationship with Xi remains ambiguous, although the two are expected to follow the existing model under which Hu stayed somewhat aloof as head of state while Wen acted as the public face of the administration. Both are seen as part of a generation of leaders more comfortable with the West than their predecessors, said Ding Xueliang of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. "Their reference for great power status from Day One was the United States, unlike Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, who looked toward the Soviet Union," Ding said. [Ibid]

"It remains to be seen whether Li will come out as a leader, or just follow a weak, watered-down consensus," Chavonec said.That demand for consensus severely constrains the scope of any administrative reform, even though Li and the party say they are necessary, said U.S. Naval Academy China scholar Yu Maochun. "You can't change the key parts of China's economic structure without fundamentally changing China's political structure, so I don't expect much" from Li, Yu said. [Ibid]

Li Keqiang, His Brother, Tobacco and Money

William Pesek wrote in Bloomberg, ‘savvy investors eyeing the next big thing in China should consider cigarettes, nicotine gum and cancer-treatment providers. That is the upshot of a new Brookings Institution report that raises burning questions about the family of Li Keqiang. Li’s brother, Li Keming, is deputy director at China’s State Tobacco Monopoly Administration, which dominates an industry. [Source: William Pesek, Bloomberg, November 5, 2012]

Is it really plausible to think China’s No. 2 official, the man charged with public-health affairs, will clamp down on an industry in which his brother plays such a pivotal role? To answer “yes “ignores the all-in-the-family dynamic imperiling China’s future. One place where there is a different response is the blogosphere, which keeps referring to China’s “$2.7 billion problem,” or “2.7B” to get around government censors frantically trying to prevent people from reading an Oct. 25 New York Times article about Li Keqiang’s predecessor, Wen Jiabao.

Brookings senior fellow Cheng Li (no relation to the Li brothers) argues that Li’s brother should be removed from his post at China’s tobacco monopoly. The thinking is, if you believe China took a light touch to regulating cigarettes during the past 10 years, just wait until the next 10. That hardly bodes well for the interests, or health, of China’s people. [Ibid]

Li Keqiang Officially Becomes Premier of China

Li Keqiang Jinping officially assumed the office of prime minister of China during a meeting of The National People’s Congress in March 2013 in Beijing, completing his formal transition to power. The Guardian reported: “China's ruling Communist party has appointed Li Keqiang as premier, bringing a highly orchestrated leadership transition nearer its end. The party-controlled legislature overwhelmingly selected Li, the only candidate for the office, which is China's number two position politically and its top job in practical terms. There were 2,940 votes in favour with one opposed and six abstaining. A day earlier the legislature similarly appointed Xi Jinping to the ceremonial post of president, making him China's pre-eminent leader following his ascent last November to head the Communist party and the military. [Source: The Guardian, March 15, 2013 <<<]

“The final vote was a foregone conclusion but choosing the candidates had taken years of fractious behind-the-scenes bargaining. Li Keqiang is a protege of the now-retired President Hu Jintao, while Xi Jinping is the son of a revolutionary veteran with backing among party elders. After Li's selection was announced he and Xi shook hands and smiled for photographers in the Great Hall of the People. Xi and Li's main challenges are a misfiring economy overly dominated by powerful state industries and mounting public anger over widespread corruption, a burgeoning income gap and social inequality. An increasingly vocal Chinese public is expressing impatience with the government's unfulfilled promises to curb abuses of power by local officials, better police the food supply and clean up the country's polluted rivers, air and soil. <<<

“Responsibility for the economy will largely fall to Li and vice premier in charge of economic affairs Wang Yang, a reformist ally of now-retired President Hu Jintao. The report, delivered by Li’s predecessor Wen Jiaobao in his last speech before stepping down, promised to give private companies a fairer chance to compete but did not say how Beijing would deal with big state companies controlling most of China's industries that economists have warned need to be curbed in order to preserve future growth. <<<

AFP reported: “Li is expected to be in office for a decade, and will seek to wean the country towards more balanced development, with domestic consumption by a larger middle class playing a greater role. He showed liberal tendencies in his youth, but has toed the party line for decades, and his reputation was damaged by his handling of an HIV/AIDS epidemic stemming from a tainted blood donation programme while party boss in Henan province. Local authorities responded with a clampdown on activists and the media rather than assigning responsibility to the officials involved, and at the national level a stream of health scandals have also happened on his watch. [Source: AFP, March 15, 2015 *-*]

Li Keqiang Faces Challenge to Exert Authority

China's new premier Li Keqiang has risen from relatively humble roots to take charge of running the government of the world's second-largest economy, but could struggle to enforce his will. AFP reported: “A career bureaucrat who speaks fluent English, Li, 57, has a more youthful bearing than his stiff party peers, and has voiced support for the kind of economic reforms many experts say China sorely needs for continued growth. Like his predecessor Wen Jiabao, Li's real power comes from his position as number two in China's ruling Communist Party, where he is seen as having ties to a more populist faction associated with former President Hu Jintao. [Source: AFP, March 15, 2015 *-*]

“But Li's shortage of allies on the party's top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, leaves him lacking "political heft", said Patrick Chovanec, a China analyst and chief strategist at Silvercrest Asset Management in New York. In order to exert influence, Li will need to secure the support of new president Xi Jinping, who has more personal allies and ties to retired officials as the "princeling" son of one of China's most famous generals, he added. *-*

"One concern with Li is that he has been dogged in the past with... not personal scandals, but policy embarrassments, particularly in Henan," Chanovec said. "The perception of him is he is not necessarily seen as the most effective policy-maker out there." As one of China's key decision-makers on the economy, Li has been praised for helping to steer the country through the global financial crisis relatively unscathed. One of his top priorities will be to maintain China's rapid economic growth, which is currently export-led and under pressure because of weakened demand for manufactured goods in Europe and the United States. *-*

“Since becoming the Communist Party's number-two last year, Li's biggest move has been a government restructuring announced last week, which saw the abolition of China's powerful and often corrupt railways ministry. Public anger over wealth gained through graft is a key concern for China's authorities, who are anxious to avoid social unrest. But analysts say the scale of the restructuring achieved so far point to Li's challenges ahead. "We have seen minimal cosmetic changes, he was not able to pull off a major restructuring," said Willy Lam from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. *-*

“Some fear parallels between Li and his predecessor Wen, who struggled to force through policies as he battled with factions in the upper reaches of the party, and officialdom in the provinces and ministries. Wen cultivated an image as the liberal face of the Communist Party, a standard bearer for the poor who voiced qualified support for political reform. But such changes stagnated under his watch, while China's wealth gap grew. *-*

“The party has long held the view that it must maintain control over politics, while promoting economic growth as the key to solving China's problems. There was "no indication" that Li or Xi "are any different from the current leaders in this respect", said Barry Sautman, associate professor of social science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. "There is nothing they have done in the past to suggest they might do something different from what has been done over the course of the last 30 years or so." *-*

Li Keqiang’s Policies

In 2013, Premier Li Keqiang proposed the idea of mass urbanization—a process involving moving 250 million people move from rural areas to cities over a little more than a decade—as a means of ensuring robust future economic growth. Ian Johnson wrote in the New York Times, “China is pushing ahead with a sweeping plan to move 250 million rural residents into newly constructed towns and cities over the next dozen years — a transformative event that could set off a new wave of growth or saddle the country with problems for generations to come. The government, often by fiat, is replacing small rural homes with high-rises, paving over vast swaths of farmland and drastically altering the lives of rural dwellers. So large is the scale that the number of brand-new Chinese city dwellers will approach the total urban population of the United States — in a country already bursting with megacities. [Source: Ian Johnson, New York Times, June 15, 2013 \~\]

Li Keqiang’s First Overseas Trip

Li Keqiang wrapped up his first official visit abroad as Chinese premier—to India, Pakistan, Switzerland and Germany—with a clear and strong message to Europe “more cooperation, less protectionism. Xinhua reported: “In India: 1) Li stresses global strategic significance of China-India relations; 2) Li stresses global strategic significance of China-India relations; 3) Chinese premier's India trip helps build consensus, mutual trust: 4) Premier Li encourages businesses to tap Chinese, Indian markets; 5) China expects cooperation with more Indian companies: premier; 6) Chinese premier urges efforts to carry on China-India traditional friendship; 7) China, India must grasp fresh opportunities in strategic cooperation: Premier Li; 8) Li stresses global strategic significance of China-India relations. [Source: Xinhua, May 2013 ^^]

“In Pakistan: 1) Chinese premier raises five-point proposal for boosting cooperation with Pakistan; 2) Chinese premier raises five-point proposal for boosting cooperation with Pakistan; 3) China-Pakistan friendship to grow with fresh vigor: premier; 4) Li's visit opens new chapter in China-Pakistan relations; 5) China, Pakistan issue joint statement, vow to deepen cooperation; 6) Chinese premier urges closer ties with Pakistan, vows to enhance strategic cooperation; 7) Chinese premier hopes for more fruits in friendship with Pakistan; 8) China, Pakistan aim for new pattern of strategic cooperation. ^^

“In Switzerland: 1) China, Switzerland sign MOU on concluding FTA talks; 2) China, Switzerland sign MOU on concluding FTA talks; 3) Chinese premier's Swiss tour fruitful, influential; 4) Chinese premier stresses importance of innovation, IPR protection; 5) Conclusion of FTA talks creates vast space for deepening Sino-Swiss ties; 6) Completion of Sino-Swiss FTA talks "historic event"; 7) China, Switzerland sign MOU on concluding FTA talks; 8) China, Switzerland to announce conclusion of FTA talks. ^^

“In Germany: 1) Chinese, German PMs agree to promote cooperation, strategic partnership; Chinese, German PMs agree to promote cooperation, strategic partnership; 2) Chinese premier's German tour promotes strategic partnership, cooperation; 3) Chinese premier salutes former German chancellor's contribution to bilateral ties; 4) Chinese new leadership highly values China-Europe ties; 5) China's development means more chances for the world; 6) Chinese premier vows to promote inter-party exchanges with Germany; 7) Germany opposes EU probe into Chinese telecom products: Chancellor Merkel. ^^

Li Keqiang Demands Audience with Queen on Visit to Britain

In June 2014, Chinese officials threatened to cancel Li Keqiang’s visit to the U.K. unless the prime minister was granted an audience with the Queen Elizabeth II. Tom Phillips wrote in The Telegraph, “Li Keqiang insisted on meeting Her Majesty during a three-day trip that is due to start on Tuesday and issued a “direct threat of cancellation” unless that wish was granted, The Times reported. British officials see Mr Li’s visit as a crucial opportunity to strengthen relations between the two countries, particularly in the wake of an 18-month diplomatic freeze imposed by China following a 2012 meeting between David Cameron and the Dalai Lama. [Source: Tom Phillips, The Telegraph, June 14, 2014 ^=^]

“However, in the lead up to Mr Li’s visit Chinese diplomats threatened to scrap the visit, telling British officials the proposed meeting with the Queen was a “deal-breaker”, the newspaper reported. London appears to have acquiesced to Beijing’s demands. Mr Li will meet with the Queen during his time in the UK. “The Chinese are hard negotiators,” a government source said. In an unusual twist, Chinese officials also pressed British diplomats “to find out what sort of dress Samantha Cameron is likely to be wearing when Mr Li and his wife meet the Camerons,” The Times reported. ^=^

“China’s insistence that their premier should meet the Queen is the second recent example of an increasingly assertive Beijing making forceful demands regarding its leaders’ overseas trips. In February, Chinese diplomats were reported to have pressured their German counterparts to arrange a visit to Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial during a visit from Xi Jinping, the president. China’s desire to focus on the Holocaust was seen as an attempt to embarrass and attack Japan over its actions during World War Two. German officials refused to organise such a visit for president Xi but informed Chinese diplomats that their president “was, of course, welcome to visit World War II memorials on his own time”. ^=^

Image Sources: China.org

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated December 2012

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