China names Li Qiang, close confidant of Xi Jinping, as nation’s next premier nominally in charge of 2nd largest economy

China's ruling Communist Party on Friday nominated Li Qiang, a close confidant of President Xi Jinping, to become the nation's next premier nominally in charge of the world's second-largest economy.

The nomination of Li, who has long advised the president on economic issues, was widely expected and was approved by 2,940 members of the National People's Congress, the country's legislature, during a meeting in Beijing.

Li, 60, will replace Li Keqiang, who has held the post since 2013. Li Keqiang is expected to remain in office until the legislature approves the new premier in March.

Li Qiang is a former mayor of Shanghai, a major financial center. He has served as a member of the party's powerful Politburo since 2017 and was one of the first top-level officials to back Xi's signature economic policies.

Li is likely to take over at a time when the Chinese economy is facing uncertain prospects. Growth has slowed to its weakest pace in decades, and the government is grappling with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and the US-China trade war.

Li has expressed support for the government's efforts to contain the virus and promote economic recovery. He is also seen as a proponent of further economic liberalization and has been a vocal advocate for the development of China's private sector.

The nomination of Li Qiang as premier is seen as a sign of Xi's increasing control over the government. The president has already made sweeping changes to the Communist Party leadership, giving himself more power than any of his predecessors.

Li is expected to have a strong influence on the government's economic policies, and his appointment could pave the way for further reforms. His nomination also ensures that Xi will have a loyal ally in the top job as he continues to consolidate his power.