Theory of the Week: To Each According to His Father

The  comes from the Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon, a glossary of terms created by Chinese netizens or encountered in online political discussions. These are the words of China’s online “resistance discourse,” used to mock and subvert the official language around censorship and political correctness.

àn diē fēnpèi 按爹分配

Hard-earned, or birthright? (Source:

Hard-earned, or birthright? (Source:

To possess material comforts commensurate with one’s father’s economic and social status, inherited rather than earned. Riff on the socialist principle “to each according to his contribution.”

In a capitalist system, there is no direct correlation between an individual’s labor and their income, as ownership, status within an organization or company, and financial markets all offer avenues to “undeserved” or unearned income. Nineteenth-century socialists theorized an alternate system in which individuals are compensated according to their “contribution to social product.” Karl Marx noted the inherent inequality even of this system, as some people may not be strong or intelligent enough to produce as much as others. He theorized that early communist societies would function under the principle of “to each according to his contribution,” eventually moving towards the egalitarian foundation “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

The Chinese Communist Party still espouses “to each according to his contribution” (àn láo fēnpèi 按劳分配), but ordinary citizens feel that the theory is nothing more than that. Instead, the children ofParty officials and the nouveau richeinterconnected groups— have benefitted the most from reform and opening.

Wanglaotan (@王老探): During the time of people’s communes, the distributive system was “to each according to his contribution.” After reform and opening, “to each according to his capital” went into effect, which over the past twenty years has quietly morphed into “to each according to his father.” What is meant by “to each according to his father”? It means that the greater daddy’s power, the more opportunity for his children to get in on monopolies and the to easier to gain wealth. They have more capital and lower barriers to investment, and their profits are higher. In short: these days, daddy’s influence in the Party, politics, and the military are in direct proportion to his children’s social status and wealth. If your father is a worker, peasant, common intellectual, bureaucrat, or low-level officer, and you want a share of public capital or to strike it rich—that’s the deceit of the Chinese dream! (August 23, 2013)


See also compare fathers and preliminary stage (of socialism).

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