Li Keqiang, 57, was appointed Chinese premier on Friday, at a time when China has become the world's second largest economy. He is the first premier born after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 to hold dual academic degrees in economics and law.During his five-year tenure as vice premier, Li had been widely acclaimed for his acumen and determination in facing challenges, and professional style of work. He had made remarkable achievements in helping overcome difficulties along with endeavors to accelerate economy, improve people's livelihoods and deepen reforms.Three decades of rapid development has made China a middle-income country. However, the country is still on a difficult journey with many obstacles ahead waiting to be overcome. To build a moderately prosperous society by 2020 in a country with a population of over 1.3 billion shall be an epic and historic task.Upon appointment as the premier, Li bowed deeply with a smile amid applause of some 2,900 legislators in the Great Hall of the People, underscoring his sense of duty as a big country's premier and also conveying wisdom and strong-mindedness of a mature statesman.REFORMMarket-oriented reform has been on Li's political agenda. During his investigation tour to Baotou city of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in February, Li stressed that "the hand of the market, the government and the people should join together" to unleash greater power of the reform.Li chaired a seminar on reform six days after the conclusion of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in November.At the seminar, Li put forward the "reform as dividends" theory. "Reform at present has entered deep water and has to sail in a head tide. We may spare mistakes if we make no endeavor, but we must bear a historical responsibility," he said.As China's comprehensive national strength keeps building up, the endeavor to square up to conflicts and difficulties ahead and actively advance the reform reflects an ingrained awareness by Chinese people of being prepared for potential dangers and CPC's sense of mission.Administrative reform became a top priority after the 18th CPC National Congress. The second plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee in February endorsed a plan for the institutional reform and functional transformation of the State Council, which was adopted by the National People's Congress (NPC) on Thursday. It was Li who led the drafting team.Li insisted on cutting down the cabinet departments down to 25 to bring more efficiency. This round of cabinet restructuring is the seventh to take place in China since the country's reform and opening up in the late 1970s. Like any reform of its kind, this round represents a difficult challenge.A commentary published in Nouvelles d'Europe, a Chinese language newspaper in Europe, said China's institutional restructuring will advance step by step, adding that it is high time for China's new leaders to translate their political courage and intellect into political decision-making.In mapping out the plan, Li said administrative reform is not merely a reduction in the size of the cabinet, but a reform that prioritizes the transformation of functions. He called for decentralizing power over the market, society and local authorities by decreasing government intervention. Functional transformation is integrated with institutional restructuring in his proposal.Led by Li, the drafting team carried out field research in multiple sectors, provinces and enterprises. Li presided over seminars to seek expert opinions that could aid in resolving difficult problems.As vice premier, Li knew well how difficult coordination could become when multiple departments took charge of the same task. Food safety was supervised by a dozen of regulatory bodies, which often led to different regulators passing the buck in terms of doing their duty. Marine surveillance forces were spread among five departments, making them too divided to join hands.Li has strongly advocated the change of age-old problems in the railway sector, which operated both as administrative agencies and enterprises. He also demanded the integration of departments in food safety and marine sectors with duplicate functions.He has also pushed to reduce and decentralize government approvals for investment and businesses, as well as cut market access examinations and administrative charges. Since many entrepreneurs complain the business registry procedures are too complicated, Li helps change the system by granting licenses more freely. Entrepreneurs are now allowed to register their companies by agreeing upon registered capital, instead of actual contributions.While reviewing a price reform plan for coal and electricity, Li approved of its market orientation but believed that it was too characteristic of a planned economy. "Given that all coal is sold at market price, why are there still restrictions on quantity and price? The contracts between enterprises brook no checks from the government. The contract law shall solely apply," he once said.The plan had to be further revised for adoption. Now the revised version has been implemented, lending a strong push for the coal and electricity reform.TRANSFORMATIONThe 18th CPC National Congress urged the synchronized development of industrialization, IT application, urbanization and agricultural modernization. During his inspection of the State Grain Administration on Jan. 15, Li summarized these "four modernizations," similar to the "four modernizations" of agriculture, industry, national defense and science and technology China put forward in the 1950s. New modes of modernization are expected to help China develop through transformation.Li believes that the deep integration of industrialization and IT application is the orientation and impetus of industrial upgrades. He has noticed that the integration of IT and power-generating technology in developed countries can significantly boost the utilization of renewable energy generation by opening to small companies and families.Since it is difficult to integrate wind and solar power into the grid, Li has called for studying energy development of foreign countries and opening the grid to small-scale distributed power generation by utilizing information technology. China's National Grid has since been connected to several small solar power generators operated by small companies and families.He considers urbanization to be the biggest source of development for the coming decades.Li's doctoral thesis at Peking University, "On the Ternary Structure of China's Economy," won the Sun Yefang Economics Prize, the highest honor in China's economic circles. It reflected his thorough understanding on both world trend and China's reality. Through deliberation and practices of more than 20 years, Li has nurtured strategic theories of new urbanization.He believes that China's urbanization should be conducted using advanced concepts and managerial expertise from abroad. He was deeply impressed by the urban layout of European cities, as well as their living environment and public services, during visits in the 1980s and 1990s.In 2012, when he was preparing to visit Europe as vice premier, he proposed holding a high-level China-Europe forum on urbanization. One month later, almost 600 experts, businessmen and officials from China and Europe gathered in Brussels to discuss sustainable city planning and infrastructure-building. The forum became a new platform for strategic and practical cooperation between China and Europe.Li has been pondering how to achieve a unification of scientific development and cultural progress in the process of urbanization. He has repeatedly stressed that urbanization should be a people-first drive which will eventually enrich rural residents and benefit the entire population. A key issue is to help over 200 million farmer-turned migrant workers gradually adapt to urban life.During his tour to an economic development zone in Jiujiang city of east China's Jiangxi Province in late December, Li went to the homes of migrant workers and listened to their views on employment, income, housing, social security and education for their offspring. He later urged local officials to help the workers resolve these problems.When Li served as the governor of Henan Province, he tried to seek a coordinated development of industrialization, urbanization and agricultural modernization. With these efforts, the inland province's economy is ranked the fifth among Chinese provincial-level regions.Henan has also emerged as an industrial powerhouse, while its grain output surpassed 55 million tonnes last year. When attending a panel discussion with NPC deputies from Henan, Li called on the province to further pursue industrialization, IT application, urbanization and agricultural modernization.Li Keqiang has paid close attention to the development of service industry, employment and low-income subsidized housing. Over the past five years, China has started the construction or renovation of 30 million units of affordable housing. Seventeen million units have been completed, improving housing conditions for millions of people.Li has called for closing not only the gap between urban and rural areas, but the gap between different districts within cities. More than 12 million dilapidated urban homes were renovated over the last five years. In February, Li called on to initiate the second round of slum renovation.In the coming five years, another 10 million urban households can expect to bid farewell to slums. A total of nearly 100 million people will benefit from the two rounds of renovation.PEOPLE'S WELL-BEINGLi spent some of his early years living and working in the countryside, where he took on a job as CPC chief of a production brigade. He came to be acquainted with the hardship and bitterness of rural life and developed a strong devotion to the populace. Since assuming officialdom in the State Council, he has conducted frequent in-depth field surveys in his quest to solutions to improving people's livelihood.Understanding the truth through investigations has long been Li's work style. His inspection tours were low-key and he has maintained this value since entering the central government.Li is adept at studying small clues to find what is coming and seeking proper ways to resolve systemic problems.On a snowy day in December, Li arrived in the village of Qingbao in Longfeng Township in central China's Hubei Province, which he visited five years ago. Gathering villagers to his side, Li listened to their complaints and recorded them in his notebook.Upon departing, he spotted a corn field on a steep slope on the roadside. Climbing up the muddy slope, he grabbed some soil in his hand. "That's exactly the farmers' way, just like what we farmers do when checking our land," recalled villager Yang Fang.Villagers cited difficult access, strenuous management and poor harvests as their biggest problems in cultivating the sloping fields. After discussing the matter with villagers, Li suggested turning cultivated land into economic forest, relocating villagers to towns, and adjusting the local industrial structure. His proposal has been put on the State Council's agenda and a national work conference was held in Longfeng in March.Li's profound understanding of agriculture has impressed a villager, who recalled that when Li came to the paddy field, he instantly bent over to check how the rice grew and discussed with the villager how to increase harvest and farmers' income.Prior to this year's Spring Festival holiday, Li made an unplanned visit to the house of Gao Junping, a resident of a run-down area in north China's city of Baotou. Surprised by the new visitor, Gao's grandson, who had been taking an afternoon nap, fled into a bedside closet half-naked.As Li chatted with his grandpa sitting on the bed, the boy darted out and ducked under a quilt, exposing his buttocks to the camera. The unedited footage broadcast by China Central Television (CCTV) made a splash online, with netizens applauding Li's down-to-earth work style and the "cute and spontaneous" images.Li later held a meeting with the shantytown's neighborhood committee. He remarked that China should not "build high-rises on the one side and keep slums on the other side" in the course of urbanization. He called for greater efforts to renovate the city's dilapidated areas and provide better houses for its residents. "This is an overarching issue concerning people's livelihoods that should be pushed ahead against all odds," he said.During an inspection tour of Fenghuang County in central China's Hunan Province two years ago, Li was told that a local girl named Long Guiju was too poor to go to college. Li said he hoped the local government could lend a hand, and he urged a thorough resolution of education-related difficulties. "We cannot only fulfill her own dream of going to college. Such problems should be discovered and resolved in an overall manner," he said.During this year's NPC annual session, Li asked about the matter again when attending a panel discussion with NPC deputies from Hunan. He was told that other eight poor students had received financial aids like Long Guiju.Li believes that as people's living standards rise, so does their demand for a quality life. He has attached great importance to promoting environmental protection, especially when it involves a threat to public health.Responding to mounting complaints over worsening air pollution in some cities, Li called for the monitoring and release of PM2.5 (air-borne fine particles measuring 2.5 microns or less in diameter) data to be conducted nationwide at a conference on environmental protection held in December. As a result, China has adopted stricter air quality standards, and PM2.5 monitoring is now conducted in 113 cities.Li brings modern managerial expertise when analyzing China's actual condition. He said the government should prioritize basic needs when providing social services, as well as build an all-inclusive security network.PROBLEM SOLVERTo sidestep difficulties is not Li's style. He always comes to resolve conflicts with resolution, far-sightedness and systematic knowledge. Overseas media deemed Li as a master hand in resolving complicated difficulties.Li said that in China's modernization drive, "we must have the resolution and confidence similar in scaling high peaks and also the courage, wisdom and perseverance similar in walking a tightrope."Having nurtured a global vision, Li always views China's development against the background of international trend and pays attention to inter-regional development.During a visit last December to Jiujiang, a port city along the Yangtze River in Jiangxi Province, Li said although coastal regions are important to the overall economy, the central inland regions play a crucial role, too.The central regions must be fully developed to further open up the broader western regions, and bridge the gaps between the country's urban and rural areas as well as between the eastern and western regions, Li said.After leaving his post at the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China in 1998, Li became head of Henan Province, followed by a post as head of Liaoning Province. The two provinces' problems were typical of modern China. The agricultural province of Henan was struggling to modernize its agriculture and push ahead with urbanization, while industrial Liaoning was facing painful transformation of its outdated economic structure.Li proposed a comprehensive approach to develop Henan. He put forward a raft of policies, including building a "national granary," mapping out the province's industrial layout and building a city cluster in central China. He consolidated Henan's agricultural strength while pushing it to become an industrial center and a new growth engine in central China.As CPC chief of Liaoning, he confronted an economy burdened with poorly operated state-owned enterprises and an industry that had failed to open up, despite the province's vast coastline. Li encouraged the province to turn toward the sea and develop a coastal economic belt.His efforts helped connect the inland areas of Liaoning to the sea and boosted urban integration in the cities of Shenyang and Fushun. Today, the development of Liaoning's coastal economic zone becomes a national economic strategy. Li also helped resolve social security problems of millions of workers and promote the transformation of resource-exhausted cities.When serving as the vice premier of the State Council, Li was tasked to oversee the country's healthcare system reform, a challenge for policymakers around the world. The reform has been progressing with the goal of providing a basic medical system as a public service to all."Reform is 'the biggest dividend' for China, and the dividend shall benefit the country's 1.3 billion people," Li said. China now boasts the largest medical insurance network in the world after its coverage was expanded from 30 percent to 95 percent within three years.Bearing an inquiring mind, Premier Li would never stop until he got to the bottom of every question in his work, according to the aides of Li. At a conference in late November to discuss the reform plan, Li asked speakers to come straight to problems and suggestions. Many new concepts he mentioned, such as "the third transformation of energy use," have interested ordinary people so much that some intentionally read books to understand the words.As a problem solver, Li has been known for readily accepting good advice. During a fact-finding tour to Enshi, Hubei Province, Li encouraged grassroots officials to tell the truth. At a panel discussion with NPC deputies from Hunan, Li's speech was interrupted by a deputy who was eager to speak out his opinion. Li patiently listened to him while taking notes, demonstrating his respect of a deputy's right to express.Li is known for his love of reading, a habit he has nurtured since adolescence. His most favored books include literary and historical classics written in both Chinese and English. Li has a profound knowledge of law and economics and is also an eloquent English speaker.Li is married to Cheng Hong, an English professor at the Beijing-based Capital University of Economics and Business. Cheng graduated from college in 1982 and met Li while studying at Peking University. The couple has one daughter.