Xi casts Li in the shade

Xi casts Li in the shade
President Xi (left) and Premier Li during their appearance at the opening of the 11th National Women's Congress in Beijing late last year. In recent months, Mr Xi has been setting himself apart from his team-mate, Mr Li.

In the beginning, there were Xi and Li. Now, after a year, all that people see and hear about is Xi, leaving many to wonder where Li is.

The Xi-Li pairing refers to President Xi Jinping, the No. 1 man, and Premier Li Keqiang, his No. 2, in the new Chinese leadership who took power in November 2012.

Like their predecessors, the duo are supposed to work in tandem to govern China: Mr Xi, as the general secretary and commander-in-chief, will take charge of party affairs, the military and diplomacy, while Mr Li is to focus on running the economy and implementing government policies.

But in recent months, Mr Xi has set himself apart from Mr Li and hogged the domestic and global spotlight.

Last Tuesday, it was reported that Mr Xi, 60, would be heading a new group set up to oversee the "comprehensive deepening of reforms" in China that were decided on at a key policy meeting in November. Some had expected the position to go to Mr Li, 58, in his capacity as Premier, given his economic-centric portfolio.

Mr Xi is also touted to head a new national security commission, also agreed on at the meeting.

In a departure from the norm, he had dominated the policy summit, known as the Third Plenum. The summit is usually spearheaded by the Premier as it focuses on economic matters.

But at the November summit, there was nary a mention of Mr Li's involvement in the drafting of the plenum's key document that listed 60 "reform" tasks - such as boosting the role of the markets - to be achieved in the duo's 10-year tenure till 2022.

In early December, Mr Xi also chaired a high-level work conference on urbanisation, even though getting more farmers to move into cities - a key plank of the urbanisation push - has long been Mr Li's pet cause.

A recent visit by British Prime Minister David Cameron also produced proof that Mr Xi is stealing Mr Li's thunder.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr Li's scheduled dinner banquet with his British counterpart was downgraded to a lunch after a dinner with Mr Xi was arranged at the last minute.

These events have sparked talk of Mr Li being sidelined and upstaged by Mr Xi.

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