China’s former premier Li Keqiang, who was once known as the second most powerful man in the ruling Chinese Communist Party after President Xi Jinping, passed away in Shanghai on Friday. He was 68. Xinhua news agency reported that Li had been “resting” in Shanghai when he suddenly had a heart attack on Thursday. He passed away at 12.10 a.m. on Friday after “all rescue measures failed”, it added. Li was known as one of the smartest political figures of his generation, being accepted into the prestigious Peking University Law School soon after the universities were reopened following the Cultural Revolution, the BBC reported. He served as the premier for a decade from 2013 to March this year.
During his time in the role, he navigated the Asian giant through a challenging period of rising technology and trade disputes with the US, mounting government debt and unemployment, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic. In his final year in power, li had been a strong voice warning of challenges to China’s economy amid widespread COVID-19 lockdowns. He backed efforts to boost employment and maintain economic stability. Li’s death is being widely mourned on Chinese social media, with many expressing shock. “This is too sudden, he was so young,” said one user on the Chinese social media site Weibo. Another said his death was like losing “a pillar of our home”. When he stepped down, Li was 67 — one year short of the unofficial retirement age for senior Chinese Communist Party leaders. He was succeeded as premier by former Shanghai party chief and Xi loyalist Li Qiang.