Li Keqiang, the former Premier of China, passed away at the age of 68.
According to Al Jazeera, he suffered a heart attack and died just after midnight in Shanghai, according to state-run news agency Xinhua. China's foreign ministry expressed deep mourning for Li's "tragic passing."
A Life in Politics
Born to a minor party official in Anhui province, Li Keqiang was sent to work as a laborer during the Cultural Revolution. He later earned a law degree from Peking University, where he was exposed to Western liberal political theory. Li joined the bureaucracy in the mid-1980s and rose through the ranks to become the Communist Party's top official in Henan and Liaoning provinces.
Li's tenure as Premier, which began in 2013, was marked by his efforts to tackle China's economic challenges. However, his authority was overshadowed by President Xi Jinping, with whom he was once considered a rival. Li's reputation also suffered due to his handling of an HIV/AIDS epidemic in Henan, stemming from a tainted blood donation program.
During his time in office, Li was praised for helping China navigate the global financial crisis. However, his tenure also saw China's economy begin to slow down. Experts like Bert Hofman, director of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore, noted that events derailed some of Li's economic agenda but that his thinking remains relevant today.
The End of an Era
Li's departure from office was marked by some of China's lowest growth rates in decades, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and a housing market crisis. His successor, Li Qiang, is seen as an ally of President Xi, signaling a shift away from Li Keqiang's reformist agenda.