China’s Former Top Economic Official Reported Dead at 68

( – The former premier of China has died. Li Keqiang was China’s top economist for 10 years. The freshly retired fiscal expert was on vacation in Shanghai when tragedy struck. He was 68 years old.

BBC News reports that he had a heart attack on the evening of Thursday, October 26, and revival efforts failed. He was pronounced dead early the next morning.

Li was once the second most powerful man in China and served as premier from 2013 until his retirement in March 2023. He had been among the contenders who were next in line for president when Hu Jintao’s reign ended in 2013, but Xi Jinping ended up taking the role. The communist leader seized control, shrinking the Standing Committee’s influence over the country and claiming absolute power. Although the former premier watched his authority diminish amid President Xi’s leadership, he played a vital role in shaping the country’s economy amidst tensions with the United States and the 2019 pandemic.

Li had also been a symbol of hope for the Chinese people. According to NPR, he’d wanted to reform the party, with his previous efforts geared toward reducing the wealth gap, increasing affordable housing, and improving the lives of the underprivileged. An educated economist, he initially oversaw the country’s fiscal policies, but Xi eventually edged him out.

China has been facing increased economic challenges due to its high population and slumps in productivity. Growing tensions between the communist country and the United States and its allies, particularly when it comes to Taiwan and other lines recently drawn in the sand, have added to its struggles.

The Council on Foreign Relations states that some experts fear the two superpowers might eventually go to war over the disputes. Taiwan officially recognizes itself as independent of the People’s Republic of China, but many leaders have been fighting the designation, and the United States has struggled to maintain a balanced position in its efforts to retain peaceful relationships with both sides.

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