Who is Li Keqiang?

Updated: Nov 15, 2012, 18:08 PM IST

Kamna Arora

In 2010, WikiLeaks had published a 2007 US diplomatic cable in which an unknown diplomat described Li Keqiang as "engaging and well-informed on a wide range of issues". The bureaucrat will soon become the prime minister of the world`s second-largest economy.

The 57-year-old Li, famous for his impeccable English skills, will take over the reins of the government from Wen Jiabao next year. He was born in 1955 in Anhui province, one of China’s poorest areas, to a local official. Thanks to his education in Beijing’s Peking University, he is fluent in speaking English. The PhD in Economics joined the party in 1976 and became involved in student politics. In the 1980s, he joined the upper echelons of the Communist Youth League, when it was headed by now-President Hu Jintao. Interestingly, many of his friends were outspoken pro-democracy advocates, who went into exile after the 1989 military crackdown at Tiananmen Square.

Li afterwards became the party leader in Henan, in central China, and Liaoning province in the northeast. His tenure in Henan was marked by massive AIDS outbreak through contaminated blood. A series of major fires in Henan province earned Li the name "Three Fires Li". He had got something of a reputation for "bad luck". Li later nurtured an image of a careful administrator and was named to the robust nine-member party Standing Committee in 2007.

Li is reportedly married to a literature professor at a Beijing university, Cheng Hong. The couple has a daughter, who is believed to be pursuing postgraduate studies in the United States.

At a time when China`s economy is slowing down, Li`s degree in Economics and experience in economic and administrative work may help the country in stabilising its growth. Furthermore, unemployment and inflation are also causes for worry for the Party.

He has also written articles focused on China’s industrialisation, ways to improve agricultural conditions, and significance of building a stronger social welfare system.

According to Bloomberg, WikiLeaks had quoted Li as telling the then-US ambassador Clark T Randt Jr in 2007 that GDP numbers are `man-made` and that he thought electricity consumption, loans and rail cargo were more reliable economic indicators.

While addressing the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) recently, Li warned of unprecedented risks and challenges facing China. Noting that China remains in an important period of strategic opportunities for its development, he said China should fasten improvement of the socialist market economy. He also stressed upon the need to deepen reform and opening up in an all-round way.

Li, as per analysts, seeks to push China towards a more balanced development. Li has a liberal past, but is unlikely to bring much change on the political front. His predecessor, "Grandpa Wen", who is known for his personal touch, found himself alone when he talked of reforms. Will the cautious and passive leader be able to bring any serious change in the face of the party`s vested interests remains to be seen.