Hailing from a humble background as a farmer in Dingyuan, Anhui Province, Li rose through the ranks of the Communist Youth League to become governor of Henan—and China’s youngest governor—before eventually being touted as a possible successor to President Hu Jintao.
Li has been a vocal supporter of Hu’s concept of a harmonious society, and has a 25-year friendship with the president. However, questions over Li’s achievements during his two provincial governorships, and a general public perception of his ‘bad luck’ (there were three major fires in Henan during his time in office) saw him elevated only to the vice premiership at the 2008 National People’s Congress, meaning he is more likely to succeed Wen Jiabao.
Outspoken Li is a graduate of Peking University School of Economics and his official portfolio includes finance, development and price controls. He has often spoken of the need to improve access to affordable housing and health care. But with his remit currently focusing on economic management, he no longer has a great say on key affairs such as diplomacy and the military. In the internal struggle for power, he is seen as having lost out to Xi Jinping.