China's "Princelings" Economy 中国的太子党经济
All the Chinese Newly Rich are Princelings
(Source from an Unknown Emailer:)
李小鵬：華能電力董事長，公司市值 176億元 （陕西省副省长）
China's new rulers
Princelings and the goon state
The rise and rise of the princelings, the country’s revolutionary aristocracy
Apr 14th 2011 | BEIJING
“THERE are some sour and smelly literati these days who are utterly abominable,” a retired military officer reportedly told a recent gathering in Beijing. “They attack Chairman Mao and practise de-Maoification. We must fight to repel this reactionary counter-current.” At the time, two months ago, the colonel’s crusty words might have had the whiff of a bygone era. Today, amid a heavy crackdown on dissent, they sound cruelly prescient.
One of the most prominent literati, Ai Weiwei, is among dozens of activists the security forces have rounded up recently. Mr Ai, an artist who is famous abroad, was detained in Beijing as he attempted to board a flight to Hong Kong on April 3rd. There has been no official confirmation since of his whereabouts. Officials say that he is being investigated for unspecified economic crimes, but the Global Times, a Beijing newspaper, warned that Mr Ai had been skirting close to the “red line” of the law with his “maverick” behaviour. In other words, he had apparently provoked the Communist Party once too often.
Since the late 1970s, when China began to turn its back on Maoist totalitarianism, the country has gone through several cycles of relative tolerance of dissent, followed by periods of repression. But the latest backlash, which was first felt late last year and intensified in late February, has raised eyebrows. It has involved more systematic police harassment of foreign journalists than at any time since the early 1990s. More ominously, activists such as Mr Ai have often simply disappeared rather than being formally arrested.
It is an abnormally heavy-handed approach, one unprompted by any mass disturbances (recent anonymous calls on the internet for a Chinese “jasmine revolution” hardly count). This suggests that shifting forces within the Chinese leadership could well be playing a part. China is entering a period of heightened political uncertainty as it prepares for changes in many top positions in the Communist Party, government and army, beginning late next year. This is the first transfer of power after a decade of rapid social change. Within the state, new interest groups have emerged. These are now struggling to set the agenda for China’s new rulers.
Particularly conspicuous are the “princelings”. The term refers to the offspring of China’s revolutionary founders and other high-ranking officials. Vice-President Xi Jinping, who looks set to take over as party chief next year and president in 2013, is one of them. Little is known about his policy preferences. Some princelings have been big beneficiaries of China’s economic reforms, using their political connections and Western education to build lucrative business careers. Other princelings are critical of China’s Dickensian capitalism and call for a return to socialist rectitude. Some straddle both camps. Prominent princelings in business include President Hu Jintao’s son, Hu Haifeng, who headed a big provider of airport scanners; and Wen Yunsong, a financier who is the son of Wen Jiabao, the prime minister.
Cheng Li of the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, argues that a shared need to protect their interests binds these princelings together, especially at a time of growing public resentment against nepotism. Since a Politburo reshuffle in 2007, princelings have occupied seven out of 25 seats, up from three in 2002.
The Mao-loving ex-colonel was talking to a group called the Beijing Friendship Association of the Sons and Daughters of Yan’an (where Mao Zedong was based before his takeover of China in 1949). No prizes for guessing that the group favours socialist rectitude. Its president is Hu Muying, a daughter of Mao’s secretary, Hu Qiaomu. Mr Hu was a Politburo hardliner in the 1980s who died in 1992. Other princelings are association members, though it is unclear how many are current or expected holders of high office. In her speech to the gathering Ms Hu said she rejected the word “princelings”, but declared: “We are the red descendants, the descendants of the revolution. So we have no choice but to be concerned about the fate of our party, state and people. We cannot turn our backs on the crisis the party faces.”
The crisis, as her sort see it, is rampant corruption, a widening gap between rich and poor, and a collapse of faith in communist ideology. Details of Ms Hu’s speech and the former colonel’s were posted on several websites controlled by China’s remaining Maoist hardliners. Journals put out by the hardliners were forced to close a decade ago because they were too blunt in their criticism of China’s economic reforms. Yet the websites have kept up their tirades, including fierce denunciations of Ai Weiwei and other liberal intellectuals long before the recent arrests.
The Maoists’ lingering influence has been evident for the past couple of years in the south-western (and Scotland-sized) municipality of Chongqing. There, one of the country’s most powerful princelings, Bo Xilai, Chongqing’s party secretary, has been waging a remarkable campaign to revive Maoist culture. It includes getting people to sing Mao-era “red songs” and sending text messages with reams of Mao quotations. A local television channel has even started airing “revolutionary programming” at prime time. Last year Chongqing’s fawning media ascribed a woman’s recovery from severe depression to her singing Mao-vintage songs.
The campaign has drawn plenty of attention. Mr Bo is a Politburo member who is thought to be a strong contender for elevation next year to its standing committee, the party’s supreme body. He has become a darling of the Maoists (their websites say that the same colonel singled out Mr Bo for praise, to applause from the audience). For a long time it had been thought that Mr Bo and Mr Xi did not get on. But in December Mr Xi visited Chongqing and said its red revival had “deeply entered people’s hearts”. It deserved all its praise.
Few people—certainly not Mr Bo or other contenders for power—are calling for a return to Maoist despotism and an end to market economics. What worries many liberals, however, is that they share Mao’s high-handed approach to the law. In Chongqing a sweeping campaign against the city’s mafia-like gangs and their official protectors has won Mr Bo many plaudits in the state-controlled press. But the jailing of a defence lawyer for one of the mobsters, for allegedly trying to persuade the accused to give false testimony, has led many to worry that Chongqing’s courts will do anything to prevent lawyers from challenging the prosecution. He Weifang, a prominent legal expert at Peking University, wrote this week that recent events in Chongqing “threatened the basic principles of a society under the rule of law”.
The manner of the recent crackdown could be a sign that Mr Bo’s approach (which includes dollops of spending on housing for the poor) is gaining favour in Beijing. It is also a sign of the increased influence of the domestic security apparatus since 2008, when China pulled out all the stops to stop unrest marring the Olympic games in Beijing. The power of Zhou Yongkang, the member of the Politburo’s standing committee in charge of security, is widely thought to have grown along with a rapid increase in government spending on his portfolio.
More liberal thinking has not been entirely suppressed. The party chief of Guangdong province in the south, Wang Yang, who is another (non-princeling) contender for the Politburo’s standing committee, is widely seen as a bit more open-minded. Shenzhen, a special economic zone in Guangdong, has been experimenting in giving a freer rein to NGOs. The province’s newspapers are among the country’s most spirited (for which they are bitterly attacked by leftist websites). But Mr Wang has a cautious streak, too. The official media reported this week that 80,000 “potentially unstable people” had been evicted from Shenzhen in preparation for a sporting event this summer.
One of the most powerful criticisms of the clampdown came on April 8th from Mao Yushi, a notable economist. In a blog posting at Caixin Media, an outspoken publishing group, Mr Mao accused leaders of making a mistake by neglecting political reform in their plans for China’s development in the next five years. Spending ever greater sums on maintaining stability, he said, just made citizens more hostile. Determined not to allow any disruption to next year’s high politics, Chinese leaders are willing to take that risk.