Wen Jiabao isn’t the only Chinese politician dogged by familial troubles this week. Wen’s anointed successor Li Keqiang, who oversees public health, has been criticized by the Washington-based Brookings Institute over his brother’s ties to the tobacco industry.
Li, set to succeed Wen Jiabao as premier early next year, could boost his reputation as a populist leader and deflect criticism from rivals if his younger brother, Li Keming, is transferred from his position as deputy director at China’s State Tobacco Monopoly Administration, Cheng Li, a Brookings senior fellow, wrote in a report. He said Li Keming’s prominent role in the agency that runs the world’s biggest tobacco company may have set back efforts to control tobacco in the country.
The World Health Organization estimates that smoking-related diseases will kill 3 million people a year in China by 2030. The CPC made 600 billion RMB from the tobacco industry in 2011, almost 10% of annual government revenues.
Li Keqiang’s tobacco ties stand in contrast to the family of his future boss, Vice President Xi Jinping, who is set to take over as general secretary of the Communist Party at its congress next month and president next year. Xi’s wife, the army folk singer Peng Liyuan, has served as an “Anti-Smoking Ambassador” along with basketball star Yao Ming for the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control.
China has announced plans to cut the smoking rate among men to 40% by 2020, down from 57% in 2002.
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