Li Keqiang, born in 1955, became China's premier in March 2013. Like ex-president Hu Jintao, his power base lies with the Communist Youth League, where he was a member of the secretariat of the league’s central committee in the 1980s and later in the 1990s the secretariat’s first secretary. His regional governance experience includes a period as vice party boss, governor and party boss of Henan province between 1998 and 2003 and party boss of Liaoning province beginning in 2004. He became vice premier in 2008. Li graduated from Peking University with a degree in economics.
Li pledges larger credit line, high-speed rail technology to Africa
Reuters in Beijing
Premier Li Keqiang unveiled extra aid for Africa totalling at least US$12 billion on Monday, and offered to share advanced technology with the continent to help with high-speed rail development, state media reported.
Li pledged the additional funding in a speech at the Organisation of African Union headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
China will increase credit lines to Africa by US$10 billion and will boost the China-Africa Development Fund by US$2 billion, bringing the latter to a total of US$5 billion, Li said, according to Xinhua. He provided no details of the time frame.
Li "depicted a dream that all African capitals are connected with high-speed rail, so as to boost pan-African communication and development", the report said. Li said China was ready to work with Africa "to make this dream come true".
China would also offer US$100 million in aid for wildlife protection, Li added, for a part of the world where the Chinese appetite for ivory and rhino horns have driven some species to the brink of extinction.
It is Li's first visit to Africa as premier, and follows a trip to the continent by President Xi Jinping in March last year, when he renewed an offer of US$20 billion in loans to Africa between 2013 and 2015.
Li said that the new US$10 billion credit line would be on top of the existing US$20 billion offered, the China News Service reported.
Meanwhile, ahead of Li's arrival to Nigeria, the second leg of his African trip, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, a subsidiary of China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC), signed a framework contract with a provisional value of US$13.12 billion with the Nigerian Transport Ministry for a 1,385-kilometre coastal railway, according to a CRCC announcement filed at the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock exchanges.
Chinese officials said last week that Li's trip, which also takes in oil-rich Nigeria and Angola, would not simply be for energy deals and Beijing would be seeking to help boost African living standards. Li said he hoped that some of the loans being offered would be used to support small and medium-seized companies in Africa, adding that African economic development offered huge opportunities for both sides.
"History and reality make clear to all: China's development gives opportunity to Africa; Africa develops and China also benefits," he said.
Trips by Chinese leaders to Africa are often marked by big natural resource deals, triggering criticism from some quarters that China is only interested in the continent's resource wealth.
Additional reporting by Toh Han Shih