Born in 1944, Li started out as a technician in Shenyang, Liaoning in 1968. It took the engineering graduate only 15 years to become the city’s party boss and mayor in 1983. He was made Liaoning vice party boss and governor in 1987, before moving to Henan province as party boss in 1990. In 1998 Li was sent to Guangdong as the province’s party chief. He was a member of the Politburo’s standing committee between 2002 and 2012.