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Xi loyalist set to become China premier without stint as deputy

President expected to rush Li Qiang into top economic post, in first since Zhou Enlai

Li Qiang, left, is a longtime ally of Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Photo by Yusuke Hinata)

BEIJING -- Li Qiang, the Chinese Communist Party's new No. 2 official and a close ally of President Xi Jinping, now looks all but certain to take over as premier in March without first serving the usual term as vice premier to gain experience.

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress wrapped up its latest meeting Friday without naming Li as a vice premier, essentially passing up its last opportunity to do so.

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