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.
To 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.