Does Xi Jinping Make 1/20th of Obama’s Salary?

At Foreign Policy, Rachel Lu speculates about Chinese President Xi Jinping’s income and suggests that the budget for officials’ salaries in China is “surprisingly low”:

Based on available information, if Chinese President Xi Jinping were to decide to buy a 100-square-meter (about 1,080-square-foot) two-bedroom apartment in central Beijing, it would set him back almost $1 million at current prices. That means Xi, who by all appearances draws a nominal annual salary of about $20,000, would have to toil for 50 years as China’s top leader to afford this modest property — assuming, that is, that he and his family didn’t pay for any other living expenses during that time. By contrast, if U.S. President Barack Obama were to do the same in the swankiest bits of Washington, D.C., he would have to pay about the same sum, but one amounting to a little over twice his annual salary of $400,000.

[...] The salaries of China’s top leaders are not public information, so details about them reaches the public in unintentional dribs and inferred drabs. In June 2011, while speaking to university students at a public event, Yu Zhengsheng, a member of China’s ultra-powerful Politburo, made the rare disclosure that his basic salary was approximately $1,700 a month based on salary standards for Politburo members, and he claimed that he had to “pay for his own cigarettes” and “buy clothes at market prices.” Since Xi is also a Politburo member, Yu’s statement is a good baseline to gauge Xi’s salary. In April 2013, state-owned weekly magazine China Newsweek reached a similar number through deductioncalculating that the basic salary for China’s top leader was likely around $1,600 a month by examining the salary slips of ordinary civil servants and noting the incremental increase at each promotion.

If that’s correct, and Xi had to survive in Beijing on his basic salary — approximately twice the average salary of $850 per month in the city — he would not only be unable to afford an apartment, but he’d have to scrimp just to make ends meet. A popular infographic that made the rounds in October 2013 on Sina Weibo, China’s popular microblogging platform, calculates that someone living in Beijing on a salary just shy of Xi’s would be left with savings of $50 each month after deducting reasonable expenses, including approximately $500 a month for rent and $250 a month for food. [Source]

See also a CDT report on last month’s leak of officials’ salaries in Hunan and a report which compares the salaries of former President Hu Jintao and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

March 7, 2014 8:39 PM
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