BEIJING — The man in line to oversee China's massive but rapidly slowing economy for the coming decade speaks English and comes from a generation of politicians schooled during greater openness to liberal Western ideas than their predecessors.
But Li Keqiang also rose through and is bound by a consensus-oriented Communist Party that's been slow to reform its massive state-owned enterprises while reflexively stifling dissent — and he has played the role of enforcer to keep a lid on bad news.
Li was governor of Henan province in 1998 during an unusual explosion of AIDS cases. Tens of thousands of people had contracted HIV from illegal blood buying rings. But Beijing hadn't acknowledged the problem yet, and Li oversaw a campaign to squelch reporting about it, harass activists and isolate affected villages.
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