Xi Jinping: In the wake of the recent passing of Li Keqiang, China’s former premier, a wave of nostalgia has swept across the nation. Li, who served as China’s No. 2 official for a decade, left behind a legacy that symbolized an era of economic promise and openness to private enterprise.
In this article, we delve into the public’s sentiments, reflecting upon the profound impact of Li’s tenure and the contrasting leadership of Xi Jinping.
An Era of Economic Possibility
Li Keqiang’s death prompted spontaneous mourning online, as many Chinese citizens reminisced about a time of greater economic possibility and private business freedom. This sentiment starkly contrasted with their dissatisfaction with Xi Jinping’s authoritative rule, marked by his unprecedented third term in office and a shift away from reform-oriented policies.
Remembering Li Keqiang’s Words
Despite being one of the least powerful premiers in China’s history, Li’s passing revealed a profound sense of loss for an era of growth and reform that has been left behind. People praised him not just for his accomplishments but for his words and beliefs.
On social media, many shared videos of Li promising that China’s doors would remain open, akin to the unceasing flow of rivers. However, some of these videos fell victim to China’s censorship, demonstrating the complex dynamics of free expression in the digital age.
Li’s death unleashed pent-up frustration among the Chinese population who viewed Xi’s policies as mishandling the economy. Xi’s approach included curbing the private sector, undermining successful companies, and tilting the government’s focus more toward ideology than economic growth.
For many, Li represented a pragmatic technocrat who had played a significant role in lifting China out of poverty in the 1990s and 2000s. His commitment to the Constitution and the people’s wishes endeared him to many.
A Glimpse at China’s Economic Challenges
Li’s death prompted reflection on the national growth target during his tenure, a notable 7.5 percent. In contrast, China’s economy fell short of its 5.5 percent target in 2022, and many analysts predict missing less ambitious goals in the current year.
The Legacy of Li Keqiang
Li Keqiang was a champion of entrepreneurship and innovation, symbolizing a golden age of business and innovation. His sudden departure left many feeling that this era had ended with him.
He was seen visiting Wuhan in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak while Xi Jinping’s visit occurred much later, showcasing differences in leadership styles during crises.
The Humble Statesman
Li’s candor was appreciated, particularly when he pointed out the disparities within China, despite its impressive economic growth. His honesty punctured Xi’s claim of having eradicated poverty.
The public’s reaction to Li’s passing was remarkable, akin to the White Paper movement in November, where people protested China’s strict “zero Covid” policies. While there was speculation about possible protests, the tight control over the internet by Xi Jinping’s regime made it unlikely.
In contrast to the public’s outpouring of grief, China’s official media initially downplayed Li’s death, listing it as a brief announcement behind other less significant news. This treatment further fueled public sentiment about Xi’s disdainful approach towards Li.
The death of Li Keqiang has served as a stark reminder of the shifting landscape of China’s politics and economics. It has evoked emotions, nostalgia, and reflections on what was and what is now. As the nation moves forward, the legacy of Li Keqiang will continue to be a significant point of reference.