Foreign Policy Blogs

China’s Princelings and the CCP

If you are one of the few to hold a high place in the Chinese Communist Party life has to be good. You are running one of the world’s greatest powers and you don’t have to worry about elections next Fall, or the next Fall, or the…However, there is one major hangup to being part of the leadership of a Communist country: living a publicly austere and modest life. And not just you, but also your family and heirs. This last part is bubbling up some problems according to Jeremy Page recent piece on China’s ‘Princelings’:

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. 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.

These are high stakes for CCP. The CCP has largely traded their governing legitimacy from creating an egalitarian, communal society to one of promoting growth, growth, growth, but this does not mean that they have completely abandon the former. Having silver spoon fed young adults running around flaunting their connections and the financial and societal benefits it has brought them can create a backlash. The fact that the incoming CCP leadership will have only tangential ties to Mao’s revolutionaries of the recent past puts even more spotlight on these new leaders. Page details how the current CCP leaders are aware of the dangers these Princelings’ behavior may bring:

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.

Definitely a story worth following…

 

Author

Patrick Frost
Patrick Frost

Patrick Frost recently graduated from New York University's Masters Program in Political Science - International Relations. His MA thesis analyzed the capabilities and objectives of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Central Asia and beyond and explored how these affected U.S. interests and policy.

Areas of Focus:
Eurasia, American Foreign Policy, Ideology, SCO

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