China’s Parliament recently confirmed Li Qiang as the country’s new Premier, succeeding Li Keqiang who held the post for the last 10 years. Li Qiang is known to be a pro-business politician in President Xi Jinping’s inner circle and is expected to galvanize the private sector as well as foreign investments into the second-largest economy.

Li Qiang’s appointment comes after President Xi was confirmed for an unprecedented third five-year term. Xi, aged 69, is the only leader after the party founder Mao Zedong to have more than two five-year tenures, and he is widely expected to be in power for life.

Li Qiang, a 63-year-old veteran who has previously served alongside Xi Jinping in provincial roles, has now transitioned to a position within the central government as Vice President. Having previously headed the party in Shanghai, which is China’s leading contemporary business hub, his conduct during the COVID-19 pandemic last year has been a cause for concern, resulting in harsh critiques both domestically and abroad.

Li Qiang’s primary objective will be to restore the Chinese economy to its former growth levels, mitigate immediate risks, capitalize on long-term potential growth, and advance China’s status as a high-income economy during his tenure. The situation is of great importance due to the fact that the Chinese economy registered a meager three percent GDP last year, a figure that was the lowest in decades. Moreover, the outgoing Premier Li Keqiang established an economic growth target of just five percent for the present year, which is also the lowest it has been in decades, prior to his recent retirement.

Recent actions taken by the Chinese government against prominent business entities such as Alibaba have given rise to concerns regarding a return to state-owned enterprises. However, the appointment of Li Qiang is expected to mitigate such worries, as he is a pro-business politician. It is anticipated that Li Qiang will prioritize the promotion of the private sector and foreign investments, while also placing a significant emphasis on technological advancements and environmentally-friendly development. This aligns with China’s overarching objective of advancing toward a more sustainable and innovation-focused economy. In light of China’s target of achieving carbon neutrality by 2060, Li Qiang’s appointment is expected to represent a notable stride toward achieving this ambitious goal.

Li Qiang’s ascension to the role of China’s new Premier coincides with a time of heightened geopolitical challenges for the nation, particularly in its interactions with the United States. In recent times, the association between the United States and China has endured an enormous amount of strain, as a result of a plethora of controversial subjects, encompassing those involving commerce, technology, and human liberties.

This has culminated in a considerable escalation of stress between the two countries. The statement of Li Qiang has signaled that China’s global policy will continue to be characterized by a robust attitude, a stance that has been conspicuous during President Xi’s time in power. 

Li Qiang’s appointment holds tremendous significance, given China’s present economic and geopolitical challenges. His efforts to foster growth within the private sector and attract foreign investments, coupled with his prioritization of technological innovation and green development, are expected to augment China’s long-term potential for growth. Additionally, his appointment is poised to ensure consistency within China’s foreign policy, which is likely to continue being characterized by assertiveness under President Xi’s leadership.