Many people have become rich under China’s developing economy. But none as fabulously wealthy as the “Princelings” -- the children of high party officials.
With great ceremony, China’s ruling Communist Party Congress is meeting to choose the next generation of leaders.
Many of these men are the sons of former high party officials. They are called ‘princelings’ because they have achieved high political status largely due to their revolutionary lineage. As it is often the case, says magazine editor Hu Ping, many of them have also become very wealthy along the way.
"They have many ways to get immensely rich, for example, they can monopolize the market and get government procurement contracts. Hu Haifeng, Hu Jintao’s son, is a good example here. He was once the president for Nuctech. In the end of 2006, Nuctech won a government deal to supply airports throughout China with scanners to detect liquid explosives. In this way, they make a killing and it all looks legal. Inside trading is another way for them to get rich,” he said.
A recent New York Times report says family members of China’s leader Wen Jiabao have accumulated more than $2.7 billion during his tenure as premier. The wealth is hidden behind layers of investment vehicles in banking, insurance, precious stones, resorts and telecommunications.
Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Hong Lei calls the report “libelous”. "Concerning the report smearing China’s reputation, it has ulterior motives,” the spokesman said.
Other members of the politburo standing committee also have family members with strong business ties.
Current Communist Party Chairman General Secretary Hu Jintao’s son-in-law was formerly the CFO of Sina.com, one of China’s largest web portals. Estimated wealth in 2003: between $35 million and $60 million.
Poltiburo Standing Committee member Li Changchun’s son is senior executive of China Mobile, a state-owned telecom giant.
Earlier this year, Bloomberg News reported that the sister and other relatives of future Chinese president Xi Jinping have more than $100 million of family wealth.
All this wealth comes despite the Party’s longtime proclamation that it represents the fundamental interests of the working class of China and premier Wen Jiabao's vow to crack down on corruption.
"In regards to those corrupt members, it doesn’t matter what sector it happens in or who it involves, it doesn’t matter if they hold a high post, all must be severely punished under the law,” he said.
Bo Xilai, son of a party elder, was expected to become a member of the next politburo Standing Committee after the leadership change. But he was thrown out of the party on corruption charges, only after his wife was convicted of murdering a British businessman after a business dispute.