China's Princelings: descendants of Mao's generals who control the country's wealth

This long-read from Bloomberg about China's "Princelings" -- the generation of hyper-rich oligarchs' children, descended from Mao's generals -- is endlessly fascinating. Wealth in China is even more concentrated than Russia, Brazil or the USA, and the Chinese looter-class use complex screens that take advantage of different ways of representing their names in English, Cantonese and Mandarin to obscure the ownership of former state assets, flogged at pennies on the dollar in sweetheart deals for the hyper-privileged. The Princelings are western-educated, mostly in the USA, and flaunt expensive luxury-brand accessories on their social media profiles. The accompanying interactive graphic lets you explore the intertwining relationships between the families of the "eight immortals."

Opportunities for the princelings surged in the 1990s after Deng kick-started another wave of economic changes. They jumped into booming industries including commodities and real estate as new factories and expanding cities transformed China’s landscape.

Two of Deng’s children -- Deng Rong, 62, and her brother, Deng Zhifang -- were among the first to enter real estate, even before new rules in 1998 commercialized the mainland’s mass housing market. Two years after Deng Rong accompanied her father on his famous 1992 tour of southern China to showcase the success of emerging export center Shenzhen, she was in Hong Kong to promote a new development she headed in Shenzhen.

Some apartments in the 32-story complex were priced at about $240,000 each, according to a front-page story in the South China Morning Post. Corporate records show that by the late 1990s half of the company was owned by two people with the same names as Deng Rong’s sister-in-law, Liu Xiaoyuan, and the granddaughter of Wang Zhen, Wang Jingjing.

Deng Rong and Deng Zhifang didn’t respond to questions sent by fax to their respective offices in Beijing. Liu couldn’t be reached for comment through one of the companies with which she’s associated. Wang Jingjing didn’t respond to questions couriered to her office in the Chinese capital and a reporter who visited on two occasions was told she wasn’t there.

Heirs of Mao’s Comrades Rise as New Capitalist Nobility [Bloomberg News]


    1. “Great, glorious and correct” is the usual formulation. You wouldn’t want to be incorrect. That can lead to lengthy stays in the countryside.

      1. Mao:

        The Communist Party does not fear criticism because we are Marxists, the truth is on our side, and the basic masses, the workers and peasants, are on our side.

        Speech at the Chinese Communist Party’s National Conference on Propaganda Work (March 12, 1957), 1st pocket ed., p. 14.

  1. Great wealth for the privileged few seems to be a feature of Asian “communism” which more closely resembles Oligarchy than a communal strategy. Look at the ruling family of North Korea: The only fat people in the entire country are related to them.

    1. Is there any country that isn’t run by an oligarchy? I guess you could say that Robert Mugabe is an absolute monarch.

      1. No, there really isn’t but I wasn’t attempting to evaluate the socio-political systems of the entire world. I was commenting on the topic of the post.

      2. Iceland. Maybe. You could also argue for Somalia but I guess the people that run it are probably oligarchs by local standards, i.e. it just doesn’t look like an oligarchy to use ’cause their oligarchs have to spend so much of their income on weapons instead of influence…

  2.  Which is good! Personally, I love and admire all who take advantage of the State’s generous programs to be further educated.

    Those who do not see the value in these opportunities may not be of the best body.

  3. This is the bit that jumps out at me: “Chen Yun, the architect of China’s planned economy, wanted to keep control of the state in the hands of Party veterans and their families, and Deng agreed.”
    I guess that’s predictable enough, but it confirms a suspicion I’ve had: instead of the common view that china’s leaders are capitalist pigs pretending to be communists, they’re really communists pretending to be capitalist pigs.

    1. Deng was purged twice during the Cultural Revolution. You have to wonder what might have happened had Zhou Enlai outlived Mao. China IS the state. To abolish the state is to abolish China. The interests of the Communist Party, whatever its policies and whatever its name can only become synonymous with the interests of the state. Zhou Enlai, a traditional Chinese statesman and administrator, may have been able to moderate the excesses of the Party after the death of Mao. Where or how Marx fits in in Communist China, I do not know.

  4. Wonder how much money they have made from producing goods for Walmart and other importers, and their customers.

  5. In the beginning of the PRC owning property was a capital crime–now party members are making fortunes doing it.  I am reminded of Animal Farm.

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