In the Sydney Morning Herald, John Garnaut looks at the web of business interests and personal wealth that surrounds the children of China’s most powerful leaders, known as “princelings.” He tells the story of Zeng Wei, the son of powerful former Vice President and Standing Committee member Zeng Qinghong, who bought a $32 million house in Sydney across the street from Rupert Murdoch, after his father had been wined and dined there by the Murdochs:
Four years after Zeng Wei’s purchase – which remains the most egregious confirmed example of Communist Party princelings flaunting their wealth – China’s leaders are again grappling with the predicament of being unable or unwilling to control the privileges that flow towards their relatives. The reformist advocacy of the Premier, Wen Jiabao, has long been discounted because of his wife and son’s aggressive use of family status to pursue private business opportunities. And now the purged Politburo member Bo Xilai also stands exposed to allegations of great hypocrisy, as foreign journalists pore over his family’s financial dealings.
While Bo Xilai was reviving Maoist nostalgia on his official’s salary of about $US1600 per month, in a country where per capita income is ranked 121st in the world, his son was renting a presidential-style suite at Oxford and driving a Porsche in the United States. Bo Xilai’s elder brother adopted an alias to control $US10 million worth of shares at the Hong Kong-listed subsidiary of a state-owned bank. Two sisters of Bo’s wife control business interests worth $US126 million, according to what a Bloomberg investigation could identify. And his wife, Gu Kailai, is accused of murdering an English friend, Neil Heywood, after they fell out over money.
Zeng Qinghong, Bo Xilai and Wen Jiabao are all immensely capable individuals, engaging and at ease in any company. Zeng
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