Still, Li said she was taking her vote seriously. As one of the 2,268 national delegates for more than 82 million party members, Li technically is voting on behalf of 35,000 party members.
‘‘It’s very weighty,’’ she said. Work experience, word of mouth, gender and region of origin will factor into how she votes, she said.
She brushed aside reports that two top slots are already settled: Vice President Xi Jinping is all but certain to replace Hu as party chief, and Li Keqiang will become premier. But she said she would support their election.
‘‘They are super great,’’ Li said. ‘‘They have been elected up through many levels, and they are accepted and recognized by the masses.’’
Li, 55, has an authoritative voice but the look of a college student, with blue jeans, bangs and cascading black hair. Her backpack has two frog pendants, which she equates with a healthy ecology.
She develops drought-resistant varieties of plants meant to hold back the Gobi Desert in Ningxia province, to protect the farmland China needs to feed its large population. She heads a national laboratory of seedling bioengineering, and her projects have won numerous awards, including from the Hong Kong-based Ho Leung Ho Lee Foundation.
Li joined the party as a teenager even though she lived through some of its radical excesses. Her father had been condemned as a rightist and banished to one of China’s poorest regions, Ningxia province, where she joined him in the 1960s. She later was sent to another community in Ningxia where she worked alongside farmers by day and taught girls to read by night.
‘‘To join the party at 18 was more glorious than being a pop star today,’’ she said.
She went to college in 1978 and was assigned upon graduation to the Ningxia Forestry Institute. After a two-year research stint in Oslo, Norway, she became the head of the institute in 1995.
‘‘I love the Chinese Communist Party. There is no reason not to love it,’’ Li said. ‘‘It gives you space and lets you grow.’’