March 11 (UPI) — The Chinese People’s Congress, in a move that was long expected, on Saturday selected former Shanghai party committee secretary Li Qiang as premier, the nation’s second-highest office holder.
Qiang replaces the Li Keqiang, who served two five-year terms as premier. In China, the premier is mainly charged with supervising economic policy.
The position used to hold more influence over government policy, but President Xi Jinping has consolidated power under his leadership as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, a position he holds in parallel to the presidency.
Li is seen as a close ally of Xi. Only three legislators voted against his appointment as premier and eight abstained, while 2,936 voted in favor, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported.
On Friday, the Chinese People’s Congress reappointed Xi for a third five year term. The vote was 2,952 to zero and Xi received a standing ovation afterwards.
“I pledge my allegiance to the Constitution of the PRC to safeguard the Constitution’s authority, and fulfill my legal obligations, be loyal to the country and the people, be committed and honest in my duty, accept the people’s supervision and work for a great modern social country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful,” Xi said in his oath of office.
His appointment to a third term is a break from previous norms in China.
The elevation of Li, who directed the strict COVID-19 lockdowns in Shanghai and the local party boss, to oversee China’s economy could signal that Xi and a new slate of allies will concentrate on managing an economic recovery following the lifting of the country’s harsh zero-COVID policies.