Li Yuanchao: Showing way on green practices

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2007, 12:00am

For up-and-coming leaders, a Communist Youth League background is surely the biggest political asset, followed by a princeling pedigree, youth and a good education and track record.

Rising political star Li Yuanchao , the 57-year-old party boss of affluent Jiangsu province , meets all criteria.

According to internal party records, Mr Li was born into an old revolutionary family. His father, Li Gancheng , joined the Youth League in 1929 and the Red Army the following year. Appointed vice-mayor of Shanghai in 1962, he was purged during the Cultural Revolution. Before he died in 1993, Li was the vice-chairman of Shanghai's top political advisory body, the municipal Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Li Yuanchao attended Fudan University, Peking University and the Central Party School, earning bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees.

His big break came in 1983 when he became secretary of the youth league in Shanghai and a member of its central committee. He swiftly became a member of the Communist Party Central Committee.

If anything, Mr Li could do with more achievements - easier said than done in a province that is already one of the nation's most affluent. Jiangsu tops all but Guangdong in terms of economic growth, per capita income, foreign direct investment and trade and since he became the province's party boss in 2002, annual incomes have risen, hitting US$3,500 last year compared with US$2,000 in 2003.

But it is not so much wealth as the implementation of Hu Jintao's 'scientific concept of development' that is the key to success, and Mr Li's green projects and efforts to reduce the wealth gap are bearing fruit. He promoted the idea of fostering social harmony by narrowing the gap between the province's south and north long before it became a party slogan.

He set five policy goals for the province: to govern in accordance with the law, to build a harmonious society, to promote cultural activities, to step up education on ethics and to strengthen environmental protection.

For Mr Li, the future is green. He is the leader of one of only two provinces to meet environmental targets last year, cutting energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product by 4.02 per cent.

This achievement is particularly significant at a time when the government is insisting that green GDP is more important that growth.

In 2004, Mr Li approved a 100 billion-yuan fund to implement his green plan. A shift in emphasis to agriculture has produced rare bumper grain harvests in the past few years. Mr Li has also set massive infrastructure projects in motion in the less developed central and northern parts of the province.

For years, China's environment has paid the price for its blistering economic growth. Now Mr Li wants to reverse that trend, saying there will be 'no compromise' on tough measures to clean up the algae-plagued Lake Tai - even if it means sacrificing 15 per cent of the province's gross domestic product.

He has also promised to eliminate more than 2,000 polluting chemical firms by the end of next year. 'This is how we will repay a debt to nature,' he said.

Tao Wenyi , a professor of water environmental protection at Wuxi's Jiangnan University, said it could take years to see whether Mr Li realised his pledge and was a leader worth trusting.


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