LESS than a week after the biggest shuffle of China’s leaders in a decade, the prime-minister-in-waiting, Li Keqiang, set tongues wagging with a speech about the country’s economic development. A government news-agency gushed that if his words could be summed up in four syllables, they would be “reform, reform”; if in six, then “reform, reform, reform”. If only reading the tea leaves were that easy.
Mr Li, now a deputy prime minister, has officially to wait until the annual session in March of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), to become prime minister. But the Communist Party has already in effect given him the post. The outgoing prime minister, Wen Jiabao, having stepped down from the ruling Politburo earlier this month, is a lame duck. During a visit to Thailand on November 20th he told a group of overseas Chinese that he hoped people would forget about him. After revelations in the New York Times about colossal wealth amassed by his family during his premiership, Mr Wen has good reason to wish for a low-profile retirement.
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