“China premier-in-waiting schooled in era of dissent”

From Reuters, on Li Keqiang:

Li Keqiang, China’s likely next premier, once huddled beside Yang Baikui in a Beijing university dorm, translating a book by an English judge, little separating the future Communist Party leader from his classmate who would be jailed as a subversive.

Over three decades ago, Vice Premier Li and Yang entered prestigious Peking University, both members of the storied “class of ’77” who passed the first higher education entrance exams held after Mao Zedong’s convulsive Cultural Revolution.

More than any other Chinese party leader until now, Li was immersed in the intellectual and political ferment of the following decade of reform under Deng Xiaoping, which ended in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests that were crushed by troops.

As a law student at Peking University, Li befriended ardent pro-democracy advocates, some of whom later became outright challengers to party control. His friends included activists who went into exile after the June 1989 crackdown.

Some of Li’s classmates remember that he too was also carried along by that idealism of the time.

“The Li Keqiang that I knew in the past was quite bold. He was high-minded, bold and idealistic,” said Wang Juntao, who has been in exile since 1994 and is now co-chairman of the China Democratic Party, which campaigns for change in his homeland.

Wang was a physics student at Peking University who ran a study group with Li. He was jailed as a “black hand” for his prominence in supporting the 1989 student protests.

“Among all the younger leaders, Li Keqiang is the only one who’s lived and debated alongside these liberals,” Wang said by telephone from New Jersey.

“He understands us, he’s argued with us.”

On the other hand, nothing in his career to date suggests that liberal ideals are still any kind of inspiration to him. This reminds me of all of the “Is Hu Jintao a stealth liberal?!” speculation- more hopeful than informed.


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Filed under 12th Five Year Plan, Tiananmen

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