NEW YORK – I recently attended the China Development Forum (CDF) in Beijing, an annual gathering of senior foreign business leaders, academics, former policymakers, and top Chinese officials. This year’s conference was the first to be held in person since 2019, and it offered Western observers the opportunity to meet China’s new senior leadership, including new Premier Li Qiang.
The event also offered Li his first opportunity to engage with foreign representatives since taking office. While much has been said about Chinese President Xi Jinping appointing close loyalists to crucial positions within the Communist Party of China and the government, our discussions with Li and other high-ranking Chinese officials offered a more nuanced view of their policies and leadership style.
Prior to becoming premier in March, Li served as the CPC secretary in Shanghai. As an economic reformer and proponent of private entrepreneurship, he played a crucial role in convincing Tesla to build a mega-factory in the city. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he enforced Xi’s strict zero-COVID policy and oversaw a two-month lockdown of Shanghai.
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