The Case for Li Yuanchao as Premier

The Central Committee met over the weekend of October 15, 2011 to determine how the upcoming succession during the 18th Party Congress in 2012 should occur the current candidate to succeed Hu Jintao is Xi Jinping with Li Keqiang, one of the Vice-Premiers is believed to succeed Wen Jiabao as the Premier at the 12th National People’s Congress in 2013.




There has been less focus by the media and China Watchers on who will succeed Wen Jiabao as Premier. While Li Keqiang is considered to be the front-runner and is the current ‘senior’ Vice Premier, I contend that Li Yuanchao, former party boss of Jiangsu Province and current head of the Organizations Department, still has an equally suitable candidate for the position of Premier. Mainland Chinese news sources have described Li as one of China’s most ‘unconventional leader’, ‘independent minded’, and known for strong ‘forward thinking’ concerning how China should be governed.[2] Li Yuanchao has the most hands on experience amongst the elites in implementing policies for the problem areas that the CCP need to manage in the 21st century. During his reign as Jiangsu Party Boss he improved Party relations with the people, curbed corruption, implemented inner-party democracy on a provincial level, improved the conditions of migrant workers, and brought greater government attention to the dangers of environmental pollution.[3]

Nothing is ever certain in Chinese politics. One of the more recent examples of what China Watchers thought was a certain event that did not go as predicted was the failure of Xi Jinping to be promoted to Vice-Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) during the Fourth Plenum of the 17th Party Congress in September of 2009. Though the Party gave no reason as to why he was passed over for promotion it left analysts wondering that perhaps there was infighting amongst the elites and that Xi could be experiencing a fall from grace. Eventually Xi was promoted to the Vice-Chairman position of the CMC at the Fifth Plenum of the 17th CPC in 2010. It should be noted that a military leadership position is not a requited position for one to become Party Secretary. China Watchers inferred the importance of this position because Hu Jintao held this position before he was made Party Secretary and it was believed that Xi would follow Hu’s path.[4] The Party’s failure to promote Xi’s only highlights the unpredictability of accurately forecasting elite level politics and how ‘certainties’ can be wrong.[5]

In May and June 2010 there were widespread worker strikes and migrant unrest throughout several provinces. Premier Wen Jiabao highlighted that the Party must work to ensure better treatment and more resources need to given to migrant workers. Wen also commented that the government must do more to curb environmental pollution and incorporate green development into China’s ‘rise’. This shows the prescience of Li Yuanchao’s policies in Jiangsu Province as he sought to widely improve the lives of migrant workers and spur greater environmental reform since 2002. Li’s policies seem to have taken greater notice by higher Party officials otherwise he would have never been promoted to the Organizations Department during the last Party Congress.


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downloadbutton3Published in Political Reflection Magazine (PR) Vol. 3  No. 1

* Nicholas J.S. Miller is a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney.


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