People to Watch: Standing Premier of the People’s Republic of China – Li Keqiang
Background Concerning Chinese Leadership:
The People’s Republic of China is ruled by a single party, and as such, most high level party leaders occupy corresponding high level positions in the government as well. Government and party leaders often coincide but are not mandated to be one in the same. Opposing parties are almost entirely non-existent.
Li is a member of the politburo standing committee. This is the highest governing body of the communist party consisting of only 9 members.
The Politburo, the second highest ranking body, contains an additional 16 members including the 9 from the standing committee, totaling 25.
Finally, the Central Committee contains 350 members.
China’s leadership is generally technocratic, meaning that each member has completed a highly technical level of training in their given field. Currently, most Chinese technocrats are trained in economics, having graduate or post graduate degrees. Additionally, the communist party leadership tend to hold several different positions, this tends to consolidate power most effectively.
Li Keqiang Biography,
Ethnic Han Chinese from Anhui Province.
Studied law at Beijing University. Later received Masters and Doctorate equivalents
in economics from Beijing University.
Technocrat with a PhD in economics from Peking University.
Member of the communist youth league of China (CYLC)
Prior postings in Henan and Liaoning as governor or other leadership roles
Central Committee, Politburo, Standing Committee;
- Central Committee – 350 of the top leaders of the communist party, they are elected by the CPC National Congress.
- Politburo – 25 out of the 350. They oversee party affairs.
- Standing Committee – 9 of the 25. Many high level positions within the party and state government require a seat on the standing committee.
Premier, State Council;
- This is the top STATE executive body. Premier is appointed by the president of the state (currently Xi Jinping).
- Within the council are several ministries which deal with a wide range of state issues.
Director, National Leading Group for Climate Change and for Energy Conservation & Reduction of Pollution Discharge;
- Under the State Council
Director, State Energy Commission;
- Under the State Council
Vice-Chairman, CPC, Central Committee, National Security Commission
- Newly created and headed by Xi Jinping. Said to be aimed at “unconventional security”. We infer this to mean internet Arab spring propaganda and other things issues that do not fall into “conventional security” which is to say the military.
China, like any regional power, faces a number of threats to their national security. These threats range from minor domestic issues, to vital threats posed by other nations. As China continues to develop and pursue its own national interests, party leaders will be faced with certain critical decisions regarding their national security. Many of the decisions that China will make, will invariably have an impact for US national security. As the US continues its pivot toward Asia, it must work with and alongside China. Given the information we know about Li Keqiang, we can infer party decisions for programs and departments that are within his sphere of influence. Li Keqiang holds powerful positions in both the state and party bodies allowing his disposition to help shape the future of China. Li tends to favor reform relatively more than his party colleagues. Notably, Li is also the vice-chairman of the newly formed National Security Commission to deal with emerging national security issues.
One of the key duties held by the Vice-Chairman of the Communist party is to sit in council with the other 8 members of the Politburo Central Committee. As Vice-Chairman, Li Keqiang is in the position of committed influencer to Chairman Xi Jinping. Li and Xi differ in their opinion of some state affairs. These differences may not be extreme and certainly do not imply disunity within the top members of the party as we saw with certain members during Tiananmen square or even recently with some of the ousted members of the party. However, this does mean that Li will run departments under his control differently than other members might. These decisions may have far-reaching impacts. Specifically, Li is the Director of the State Energy Commission while also serving as the Director of the National Leading Group for Climate Change and for Energy Conservation & Reduction of Pollution Discharge. Additionally, Li serves alongside Xi on the National Security Commission.
First, the issue of energy and pollution. Li has a relatively progressive stance towards reform and change. During Li’s years of service on the State Energy Commission, he has become increasingly aggressive in his policy reform and regulation of major economic sectors. For example, As the general population continues to vie for healthier living conditions and safer working conditions, Li will be in a position to enact reform favorable to the sentiments of the general population. This is not to say that Li is overly swayed by public opinion, but rather, Li is in a special position and leans towards allowing reforms; the same cannot be said of other party members. However, heavier regulations could mean cutting into the competitive advantage enjoyed by China and mean a relative increase in the US global economic position. Even with the cost of enacting reforms, Li and his commission have enacted reforms that “Environmental experts [in the US] believe that the revised environmental laws may become the most stringent.” As China seeks to enact reform, the United States would be best served to assist in the transition of safe working and living conditions for the Chinese labor force. This action will benefit favorable results in both human rights in China and economic advances for the US in East Asia. China is to “declare war” on pollution, Premier Li Keqiang said “We will resolutely declare war against pollution as we declared war against poverty,” “This is an acknowledgement at the highest level that there is a crisis,” said Craig Hart, expert on Chinese environmental policy and associate professor at China’s Renmin University. “Their approach is going to have to be pro-economy. I think they will pump money into upgrading plants. This could be another green stimulus although it is not being packaged that way.”
Second, the issue of Chinese national security. China will face a limited amount of critical issues for which the commission will be directly responsible. These include, Tibet Xinjiang and possibly other demonstrations throughout the nation and among several SARs. However, Li Keqiang does not have nearly the level of influence in this commission as he does in the energy commission, both because Xi Jinping is present and because this committee is not under his direct supervision. Information on the commission is extremely limited, both due to the nature of the political system in China and the fact that the commission is so new. However, the commission did released its first national security blue book. Jiang Qianlin, the President of Nanjing Political Institute of the People’s Liberation Army, states in the blue book that “The journey of rejuvenating our nation is not easy. The stronger we are, the higher the risks and pressure we confront.”
The sentiment among the rhetoric and actions coming from the commission is straightforward and declarative. China will continue to rise in power and anticipates conflict with other powers. As China rises it will hold strong to its declared ideology and culture by developing economically and politically with “Chinese characteristics.” While it is unclear whether or not Li concurs with this philosophy, or if he simply does not have sufficient clout, it is interesting to see him participate and hold a managerial role in a commission with a starkly different ideology.