Beijing: Li Keqiang, the former premier of China, died with a sudden heart attack on Friday, Xinhua reported.

Xinhua is a China based news agency.

According to Xinhua, 68-year-old Li Keqiang, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the 17th, 18th and 19th Communist Party of China central committees and former Premier, passed away on Friday in Shanghai.

Li Keqiang, the former premier of China, has died of a heart attack, less than a year after stepping down from his post as the country's second-highest-ranking leader.

Once seen as a potential top leader, Li was deliberately kept out of the limelight for years so as not to outshine Jinping. At the same time, Xi accumulated increasingly more powers.

Many say Li Keqiang entered the Communist Party with an ambition to contribute towards his country but was stifled by its rigid red-tapism. His exit has put a question mark on the future of the country's private sector as well as the wider economic reforms that he was championing, reported Singapore Post.

Experts believe that Li Keqiang might be the last premier of his type, whose economics-focused approach towards governance contrasted with Xi Jinping's ideological tone and authoritarian tendencies.

Li had already exited the ruling Communist Party's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee last October, even though he was yet to reach retirement age, reported Singapore Post.

"Heaven is looking at what humans are doing. The firmament his eyes." This is what Li had to say while bidding farewell to 800 or so senior government officials.

Experts believe it was possible for Li Keqiang to stop Xi Jinping from "subverting" the spirit of the "reform and opening" policy launched in 1978, but he showed little courage, reported Singapore Post.

Li's replacement, Li Qiang, is considered a Xi crony, best known for his ruthless imposition of months-long Covid lockdown in Shanghai.