Children of the Revolution 中共的太子党
“红歌王”薄熙来与太子薄瓜瓜 Bo Xilai, with his son, at a memorial ceremony held for his father in Beijing, in 2007.
陈凯一语： Kai Chen's Words:
"The Princelings" phenomenon only demonstrates an undeniable truth: China's Communist Party-Dynasty has deep roots in Chinese despotic mindset/tradition. Chinese Party-Dynasty is no question founded on the traditional Chinese despotism. Chinese communist party is China indeed. If now someone still has doubts on this point, then he/she is either a moron or a man-eating monster.
Children of the Revolution
China's 'princelings,' the offspring of the communist party elite, are embracing the trappings of wealth and privilege—raising uncomfortable questions for their elders..
By JEREMY PAGE -- Wall Street Journal
One evening early this year, a red Ferrari pulled up at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Beijing, and the son of one of China's top leaders stepped out, dressed in a tuxedo.
(Grandfather, Bo Yibo — Helped lead Mao's forces to victory, only to be purged in the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution. Subsequently rehabilitated.
Son, Bo Guagua — Graduate student at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.
Father, Bo Xilai — Party secretary of Chongqing and Politburo member, likely to rise to the Politburo standing committee in 2012.)
Bo Guagua, 23, was expected. He had a dinner appointment with a daughter of the then-ambassador, Jon Huntsman.
The car, though, was a surprise. The driver's father, Bo Xilai, was in the midst of a controversial campaign to revive the spirit of Mao Zedong through mass renditions of old revolutionary anthems, known as "red singing." He had ordered students and officials to work stints on farms to reconnect with the countryside. His son, meanwhile, was driving a car worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and as red as the Chinese flag, in a country where the average household income last year was about $3,300.
The episode, related by several people familiar with it, is symptomatic of a challenge facing the Chinese Communist Party as it tries to maintain its legitimacy in an increasingly diverse, well-informed and demanding society. The offspring of party leaders, often called "princelings," are becoming more conspicuous, through both their expanding business interests and their evident appetite for luxury, at a time when public anger is rising over reports of official corruption and abuse of power.
A Family Affair
A look at China's leaders, past and present, and their offspring, often known as 'princelings.'
State-controlled media portray China's leaders as living by the austere Communist values they publicly espouse. But as scions of the political aristocracy carve out lucrative roles in business and embrace the trappings of wealth, their increasingly high profile is raising uncomfortable questions for a party that justifies its monopoly on power by pointing to its origins as a movement of workers and peasants.
Their visibility has particular resonance as the country approaches a once-a-decade leadership change next year, when several older princelings are expected to take the Communist Party's top positions. That prospect has led some in Chinese business and political circles to wonder whether the party will be dominated for the next decade by a group of elite families who already control large chunks of the world's second-biggest economy and wield considerable influence in the military.
"There's no ambiguity—the trend has become so clear," said Cheng Li, an expert on Chinese elite politics at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "Princelings were never popular, but now they've become so politically powerful, there's some serious concern about the legitimacy of the 'Red Nobility.' The Chinese public is particularly resentful about the princelings' control of both political power and economic wealth."
The current leadership includes some princelings, but they are counterbalanced by a rival nonhereditary group that includes President Hu Jintao, also the party chief, and Premier Wen Jiabao. Mr. Hu's successor, however, is expected to be Xi Jinping, the current vice president, who is the son of a revolutionary hero and would be the first princeling to take the country's top jobs. Many experts on Chinese politics believe that he has forged an informal alliance with several other princelings who are candidates for promotion.
Among them is the senior Mr. Bo, who is also the son of a revolutionary leader. He often speaks of his close ties to the Xi family, according to two people who regularly meet him. Mr. Xi's daughter is currently an undergraduate at Harvard, where Mr. Bo's son is a graduate student at the Kennedy School of Government.
“Princelings were never popular, but now ... there's some serious concern about the legitimacy of the 'Red Nobility.' ”
Already in the 25-member Politburo, Bo Xilai is a front-runner for promotion to its top decision-making body, the Standing Committee. He didn't respond to a request for comment through his office, and his son didn't respond to requests via email and friends.
The antics of some officials' children have become a hot topic on the Internet in China, especially among users of Twitter-like micro-blogs, which are harder for Web censors to monitor and block because they move so fast. In September, Internet users revealed that the 15-year-old son of a general was one of two young men who crashed a BMW into another car in Beijing and then beat up its occupants, warning onlookers not to call police.
An uproar ensued, and the general's son has now been sent to a police correctional facility for a year, state media report.
Top Chinese leaders aren't supposed to have either inherited wealth or business careers to supplement their modest salaries, thought to be around 140,000 yuan ($22,000) a year for a minister. Their relatives are allowed to conduct business as long as they don't profit from their political connections. In practice, the origins of the families' riches are often impossible to trace.
Last year, Chinese learned via the Internet that the son of a former vice president of the country—and the grandson of a former Red Army commander—had purchased a $32.4 million harbor-front mansion in Australia. He applied for a permit to tear down the century-old mansion and to build a new villa, featuring two swimming pools connected by a waterfall.
Many princelings engage in legitimate business, but there is a widespread perception in China that they have an unfair advantage in an economic system that, despite the country's embrace of capitalism, is still dominated by the state and allows no meaningful public scrutiny of decision making.
The state owns all urban land and strategic industries, as well as banks, which dole out loans overwhelmingly to state-run companies. The big spoils thus go to political insiders who can leverage personal connections and family prestige to secure resources, and then mobilize the same networks to protect them.
The People's Daily, the party mouthpiece, acknowledged the issue last year, with a poll showing that 91% of respondents believed all rich families in China had political backgrounds. A former Chinese auditor general, Li Jinhua, wrote in an online forum that the wealth of officials' family members "is what the public is most dissatisfied about."
One princeling disputes the notion that she and her peers benefit from their "red" backgrounds. "Being from a famous government family doesn't get me cheaper rent or special bank financing or any government contracts," Ye Mingzi, a 32-year-old fashion designer and granddaughter of a Red Army founder, said in an email. "In reality," she said, "the children of major government families get very high scrutiny. Most are very careful to avoid even the appearance of improper favoritism."
For the first few decades after Mao's 1949 revolution, the children of Communist chieftains were largely out of sight, growing up in walled compounds and attending elite schools such as the Beijing No. 4 Boys' High School, where the elder Mr. Bo and several other current leaders studied.
In the 1980s and '90s, many princelings went abroad for postgraduate studies, then often joined Chinese state companies, government bodies or foreign investment banks. But they mostly maintained a very low profile.
Now, families of China's leaders send their offspring overseas ever younger, often to top private schools in the U.S., Britain and Switzerland, to make sure they can later enter the best Western universities. Princelings in their 20s, 30s and 40s increasingly take prominent positions in commerce, especially in private equity, which allows them to maximize their profits and also brings them into regular contact with the Chinese and international business elite.
Younger princelings are often seen among the models, actors and sports stars who gather at a strip of nightclubs by the Workers' Stadium in Beijing to show off Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Maseratis. Others have been spotted talking business over cigars and vintage Chinese liquor in exclusive venues such as the Maotai Club, in a historic house near the Forbidden City.
On a recent afternoon at a new polo club on Beijing's outskirts, opened by a grandson of a former vice premier, Argentine players on imported ponies put on an exhibition match for prospective members.
"We're bringing polo to the public. Well, not exactly the public," said one staff member. "That man over there is the son of an army general. That one's grandfather was mayor of Beijing."
Princelings also are becoming increasingly visible abroad. Ms. Ye, the fashion designer, was featured in a recent edition of Vogue magazine alongside Wan Baobao, a jewelry designer who is the granddaughter of a former vice premier.
But it is Bo Guagua who stands out among the younger princelings. No other child of a serving Politburo member has ever had such a high profile, both at home and abroad.
His family's status dates back to Bo Yibo, who helped lead Mao's forces to victory, only to be purged in the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution. Bo Yibo was eventually rehabilitated, and his son, Bo Xilai, was a rising star in the party by 1987, when Bo Guagua was born.
The boy grew up in a rarefied environment—closeted in guarded compounds, ferried around in chauffeur-driven cars, schooled partly by tutors and partly at the prestigious Jingshan school in Beijing, according to friends.
In 2000, his father, by then mayor of the northeastern city of Dalian, sent his 12-year-old son to a British prep school called Papplewick, which according to its website currently charges £22,425 (about $35,000) a year.
About a year later, the boy became the first person from mainland China to attend Harrow, one of Britain's most exclusive private schools, which according to its website currently charges £30,930 annually.
In 2006, by which time his father was China's commerce minister, Mr. Bo went to Oxford University to study philosophy, politics and economics. The current cost of that is about £26,000 a year. His current studies at Harvard's Kennedy School cost about $70,000 a year.
“'The children of major government families get very high scrutiny,' says the granddaughter of a Red Army founder.”
A question raised by this prestigious overseas education, worth a total of almost $600,000 at today's prices, is how it was paid for. Friends said that they didn't know, though one suggested that Mr. Bo's mother paid with the earnings of her legal career. Her law firm declined to comment.
Bo Guagua has been quoted in the Chinese media as saying that he won full scholarships from age 16 onward. Harrow, Oxford and the Kennedy School said that they couldn't comment on an individual student.
The cost of education is a particularly hot topic among members of China's middle class, many of whom are unhappy with the quality of schooling in China. But only the relatively rich can send their children abroad to study.
For others, it is Bo Guagua's freewheeling lifestyle that is controversial. Photos of him at Oxford social events—in one case bare-chested, other times in a tuxedo or fancy dress—have been widely circulated online.
In 2008, Mr. Bo helped to organize something called the Silk Road Ball, which included a performance by martial-arts monks from China's Shaolin temple, according to friends. He also invited Jackie Chan, the Chinese kung fu movie star, to lecture at Oxford, singing with him on stage at one point.
The following year, Mr. Bo was honored in London by a group called the British Chinese Youth Federation as one of "Ten Outstanding Young Chinese Persons." He was also an adviser to Oxford Emerging Markets, a firm set up by Oxford undergraduates to explore "investment and career prospects in emerging markets," according to its website.
This year, photos circulated online of Mr. Bo on a holiday in Tibet with another princeling, Chen Xiaodan, a young woman whose father heads the China Development Bank and whose grandfather was a renowned revolutionary. The result was a flurry of gossip, as well as criticism on the Internet of the two for evidently traveling with a police escort. Ms. Chen didn't respond to requests for comment via email and Facebook.
A Home Fit for a Princeling : A $32.4 million harborside mansion in Sydney.
Asked about his son's apparent romance at a news conference during this year's parliament meeting, Bo Xilai replied, enigmatically, "I think the business of the third generation—aren't we talking about democracy now?"
Friends say that the younger Mr. Bo recently considered, but finally decided against, leaving Harvard to work on an Internet start-up called guagua.com. The domain is registered to an address in Beijing. Staff members there declined to reveal anything about the business. "It's a secret," said a young man who answered the door.
It is unclear what Mr. Bo will do after graduating and whether he will be able to maintain such a high profile if his father is promoted, according to friends. He said during a speech at Peking University in 2009 that he wanted to "serve the people" in culture and education, according to a Chinese newspaper, Southern Weekend.
He ruled out a political career but showed some of his father's charisma and contradictions in answering students' questions, according to the newspaper. Asked about the pictures of him partying at Oxford, he quoted Chairman Mao as saying "you should have a serious side and a lively side," and went on to discuss what it meant to be one of China's new nobility.
"Things like driving a sports car, I know British aristocrats are not that arrogant," he said. "Real aristocrats absolutely don't do that, but are relatively low-key."
—Dinny McMahon contributed to this article.