Beijing: China is in a state of grief over the death of former Prime Minister Li Keqiang, who passed away on Friday after suffering a heart attack in Shanghai. Li, who was 68 years old, was the second most powerful leader in the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) until he retired last year. He was also an economist and a vocal advocate of economic reforms during his tenure.
According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, Li was on a visit to Shanghai when he had a sudden cardiac arrest on Thursday. He was rushed to a hospital, where all efforts were made to revive him, but he succumbed to his condition at midnight on Friday. Li’s body will be taken to Beijing for a state funeral, which is expected to be attended by President Xi Jinping and other top leaders.
Li served as the Prime Minister of China from 2013 to 2023, succeeding Wen Jiabao. He was initially entrusted with the responsibility of managing China’s economy, which was facing challenges such as slowing growth, rising debt, environmental pollution, and trade tensions. He introduced several measures to boost domestic consumption, innovation, and social welfare. He also played a key role in China’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which originated in Wuhan in 2019.
However, analysts say that Li’s influence and authority diminished towards the end of his career as Xi consolidated his power and extended his term limit. Li was seen as a protégé of former leader Hu Jintao, who was ousted from the party’s core leadership by Xi at the party congress last year. Li was also sidelined from the decision-making process on major issues such as foreign policy, national security, and Hong Kong affairs.
Li’s death has sparked an outpouring of condolences and tributes online, with many netizens expressing their admiration and gratitude for his work and achievements. One person on Chinese social media wrote that Li’s death was like losing “a pillar of our home”. Another person praised Li for his humility and integrity. Li will be remembered as one of the most prominent and respected figures in China’s modern history.