State media reported that Li Keqiang, who resigned just nine months ago, died of a heart attack.
Former Chinese premier Li Keqiang has died of a heart attack, less than a year after stepping down as the country’s second-largest leader.
“On October 26th, Mr. Lee suffered a sudden heart attack and passed away at 12:10 a.m. on October 27th. [16:10 GMT October 26] All rescue efforts have failed,” state newspaper Global Times reported on Friday.
The 68-year-old, who retired in March, served two terms with Chinese President Xi Jinping, but became less political towards the end of his career as Xi gained increasing personal power over China’s government and economy. was pushed aside.
In the hours after Li’s death, news outlets such as People’s Daily and China Daily, which are considered the mouthpieces of the Chinese Communist Party, had significantly lower indexes for news coverage, including about new infrastructure, foreign investment, and even astronauts. It came in second or third place in the article.
This was quite a snub for someone who was once thought to be a potential candidate for China’s top leadership position before losing to Mr. Xi.
Mr. Li’s tenure as prime minister and head of Xi’s cabinet has been a disappointment to supporters at home and abroad who had hoped that the university-educated economist would further open up China’s economy.
Rather, his portfolio has been overshadowed by the rise of Mr. Xi and the expansion of authoritarianism.
“Mr. Li stood by hopelessly as China rapidly moved away from reform and opening up. The wind was too strong,” Adam Nee, an independent analyst and editor of the China Neikan Newsletter, told Al Jazeera. .
He said Lee’s death would be as “forgotten” as his time as prime minister.
Quoting two of China’s most famous Communist Party leaders, he said: “The situation we find ourselves in at this political moment is completely different from the aftermath of the deaths of Zhou Enlai and Hu Yaobang. ” he said. “Their deaths sparked instability and protests.”
These included protests in 1976 at the end of the Cultural Revolution and again in Tiananmen Square in the spring of 1989. Mr. Lee will leave no such legacy, Mr. Nee said.
failure of reform
Premier Li’s attempt to guide China’s economy through the COVID-19 pandemic ultimately regressed to a “zero COVID” policy, the kind not seen since the height of the Cultural Revolution. led to low growth.
“His appointment as prime minister comes at a time when China is tightening its control over its economy and society, and security and ideology are gradually overtaking economic performance as priorities. This is well demonstrated by our prioritization of zero coronavirus,” said Yun Sun, director of the Stimson Center’s China program.
“He was a reformist, but he was unable to pursue his own reform agenda. His death is a reminder not of what he was able to achieve, but of what he did not achieve.” I think so,” she added.
Mr. Li was born in 1955 in rural China to a local government official, and like many leaders of his generation, he was a former “sent out youth” who spent the Cultural Revolution in the countryside.
Mr. Li was later able to return to education and graduated from the elite Peking University, where he became acquainted with pro-democracy activists during the political and economic opening of the 1980s.
This era came to a bloody end on June 4, 1989, when the Chinese government sent armed troops to Tiananmen Square to quell months of protests calling for political and economic change and an end to corruption. welcomed.
Lee’s political and professional career survived brutal repression.
As a member of the Communist Party, Li later aligned himself with the Communist Youth League and its patron Hu Jintao, former Chinese president and Xi’s predecessor.
Since President Hu resigned in 2013, he has rarely appeared in public, and last year he suffered the humiliation of being excluded from an important meeting of the 20th Party Congress, but foreign commentators It was seen by some as a sign of a “purge.”
In the months leading up to his departure, Li referred to China’s most powerful river and emphasized his optimism that China would always move forward.
“Mr. Li said that the flow of the Yellow and Yangtze rivers cannot be reversed,” Mr. Ni recalled of a speech the then-premier gave in Shenzhen last year.
“What he meant was that we cannot reverse the great trends of history and human progress that have driven China’s progress (as in the reform and opening era). It is not due to nostalgia for the past. . It’s not because we’re closed-minded. It’s not because of policies aimed at reversing certain aspects of it. He may or may not be right. But at the moment, it’s not about reversing the situation. It seems possible.”