Fri Mar 15, 2013 5:54PM
A new political era has begun in China. Li Keqiang was appointed prime minister at the annual session of China's National People's Congress. He succeeds Wen Jiabao, who has been the prime minister for the last decade
China has completed its transition from the era of Hu and Wen, to the era of Xi and Li. Li Keqiang was endorsed as prime minister in and uncontested ballot at the Great Hall of the People. In China's number two spot he will be head of government in charge of running the economy. Li, who hails from Anhui and was formerly governor of Henan, bowed to the National People's Congress delegates who voted and was congratulated by his predecessor Wen Jiabao. Many analysts say Li is taking over amid a long-term trend of slowing growth, in spite of the recent uptick. Amid rising wages, they say investment in the form of stimulus spending is no longer working to drive the world's second largest economy. Li has a PhD in economics and has called for a more streamlined government. Yet many experts say he will not push through a downsizing of the country's overly-large state sector needed to reinvigorate the economy. They say inefficient state-owned companies, which make up half the economy and are choking off the private sector, have more than enough influence to block such reform. Li's start as prime minister came the day after Xi Jinping assumed office as president in a similar ceremony. As with Xi Jinping yesterday, today's ballot for Li was just a formality. The real decision to appoint him was made by senior Communist Party members ahead of last November's 18th Party Congress. That's when he assumed number two position in China's ruling Politburo Standing Committee. On Sunday Li will give his first annual press conference as prime minister; a task that has been performed by Wen Jiabao for the past ten years.