The Arab Spring that swept away dictatorships across North Africa and the Middle East in 2011 unnerved many in the Chinese leadership. Liu Yuan, one of the boldest and most ambitious generals in China’s People’s Liberation Army, was particularly shaken by what he identified as a fatal weakness of Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi: his son. Until the revolution, Qaddafi’s second-oldest son, Saif al-Islam, was seen as a Western-leaning reformer, a voice for modernization and democracy. And he was educated in the same class of prestigious overseas universities attended by dozens of princelings (the sons and daughters of high-ranking Chinese officials).
[…] The downfall of Chongqing Party chief Bo Xilai presents the best-known case of a princeling who has been what Liu might call “infiltrated.” Family members of Bo, another of Liu’s close princeling friends, have paid an enormous price for not being as guarded as their elite peers. If Saif Qaddafi exposed himself to what Liu calls Western spies at the London School of Economics, then Bo’s son, Bo Guagua did so while studying at Oxford and Harvard, where he grew dangerously entwined with a British businessman and casual intelligence informant, Neil Heywood. (Bo Xilai’s career exploded in March; it emerged soon after that his wife, Gu Kailai, had murdered Heywood last November.)
[…] Liu’s speech built upon an internal report by one of the Party’s senior ideological warriors, Zhu Jidong, who holds a position China’s propaganda system (which he asked me not to identify).
[…] “When employing those with experience of studying or working in the West we must first examine their political stance,” wrote Zhu. “Those who have a question or problem of politics should be strictly banned from service no matter how talented and capable they are.” Zhu wrote that all returnees need to be urgently “investigated … as soon as possible to check whether they have been ‘peacefully evolved’ by the West.” Only with such vigilance, Zhu insists — to the point of treating the children of the Party as potential traitors — can China avoid the disastrous road of privatization and Westernization dressed up as “reform.” (Chinese who have studied abroad, including princelings, are screened before taking significant government positions, but Zhu recommends the process be far more rigorous.)
See more on Chinese students studying abroad via CDT.