Chinese nepotism: grab the money and GO!

Sailer was mentioning in an early article how Indian elite class are using their own power and status to help their children. I wasn’t surprised at all. Nepotism comes with the notion of kinship, the basic sense of collectivism that has been shared since the dawn of civilization by nearly all groups of people. Protestantism was the only one weird enough to break this lock, which lays the foundation for the arrival of modern economics, where the notion of kinship has been completely tossed away and ridiculed. But in reality, nepotism survives and remains strong among most of the population in the world. The nepotism in China is probably even worse than in India.

It’s just another basic social instinct of people, like ethnocentrism. You can’t blame the parents who are using their own power and status to foster the growth of their blood. After all, this is the ultimate biological mission of living beings (to most of people). Were I or you in the similar situation, things would not have been much different. But most likely we are not in those positions. And most of us would just lament how unfair it is and how unjust those spoiled ones get it all. Look at Bo Guagua, that spoiled son of the dark lord Bo Xilai and his cold-blooded murderer wife, he belongs to the lucky ones who have it all. Attending the most prestigious boarding school in London, then Oxford, then couldn’t keep up with the study and have to “be arranged” to transfer to Harvard, it would be silly to listen to his dad’s claim that his baby boy got it all figured out by himself with some mysterious scholarship. Most of Bo’s corruption money would probably go through this little dude, even after Bo got flagged and jailed. He has a good life and will probably keep having a good life somewhere in the west, long after people forget about his pretentious dad in China.

Bo Guagua: "What was I studying again? Does it matter?"

But he is definitely no exception. I ran through a quick check on the family background of the nine comrades that are allegedly the current top decision-makers in China. The findings are so disheartening at first that I feel immediately so ashamed of the idea that I want to keep my Chinese passport. All of those daughters, sons, brothers, and sisters are either studying in the ivy league or working as the big bosses in many state-own enterprises while residing in Hong Kong, Australia, US, etc. Literally no exception (at least not much infiltrated in politics, thank the celestial!). Mao’s fatso grandson was only made a window-dressing general probably out of pity, but those dudes are without doubt using everything they could to help their kids get more money and power, mostly money. The pattern goes probably like this, just like any other Chinese family who have kids, they would send their kids to the west for the best education, with tens of tons of cash to support their hedonistic lifestyle, cars, women(men), and mansions. But the little difference to the major Chinese populace is that they don’t really care if their kids do well in school or not. Mostly they don’t anyway. The point is they would graduate, live there long enough to get a permanent residence if not the citizenship, and then go back to be parachuted on the top position of those gigantic Chinese state-own enterprises or set up a company that expands miraculously fast and successful. In either way, life is set and tuned to be good for those lucky ones.

To give you a concrete idea of what I am talking about. Let’s have a glimpse of the vivid life of Zhu Yunlai, the precious son of the then-premier of China, Zhu Rongji, supposedly the most uncorrupted and beloved Chinese political figure. Yunlai was born in 1957 and had been graduated from the then Meteorology College of Nanjing University with a B.Sc in atmospheric physics in 1981, at the age of 24. He worked as a scientist in the China Meteorological Administration probably until late 80s when he went to University of Wisconsin for a PhD in atmospheric physics. He probably really got the potential of being a good scientist as he did manage to obtain the solid PhD in 1994. Honestly if his story ended up like this I would have much more respect for his dad as an extremely benevolent and honest example of Chinese high profile. He might continue pursuing his academic career and probably would even make a lovable story in the field of atmospheric physics. But that was just my wishful thinking. At the age of 37, as a dude who had dedicated all his adulthood in the field of atmospheric physics, he all of sudden decided it was a damn waste of time and “talent” for him, or he was “decided”. One could only speculate. But what actually happened was as soon as he graduated he got enrolled into a “one-year” Master program in one of the best private Catholic university “DePaul University” in something that is completely different to what he knew before: “accounting“. Not to mention the astronomical figures of the tuition, how the hell did he get qualified to get enrolled in “accounting”, at the age of 37? This first seemed odd. But if you cross-checked his father’s track at that time and his later life encountering, you would find it was a damn belatedly right move that should have been there 15 years ago. Zhu Rongji was ascending like a rocket in early 90s along with the Shanghai clique. In 1993, he was already the damn money lord of all China, the super big boss of the People’s Bank of China. Thanks to Deng, 90′s China has much more intense economic connections to the west than the 80′s. That was probably when the high profiles got frisky in planning the lucrative futures for their kids. Zhu Yunlai must have been under tremendous pressure to give up his beloved science for something that could bring him a way better life (in terms of money of course). I guess the dude finally gave in to his dad just like his dad’s political rivals. Then after 1994 he went through a delicately planned Cinderella storyline: after graduating with a 1-year M.A in accounting he was immediately hired as an accountant by Arthur Andersen, one of those “Big Five” accounting firms in the world. Then after working for only one year he was deemed valuable enough for Credit Suisse to lure him away from Chicago as an “investment consultant”. His life in western multinational corporate might have been better if Beijing didn’t put up a ban on the family members of high profiles to work under foreign companies (guess those damn western capitalists were grabbing too much in China and touched someone’s nerve) in 1998.

Zhu Yunlai: "At least I got a real PhD in atmospheric physics!"

So at the age of 41, with 3 years of experience in the financial sector, a degree of 1-year M.A in accounting, one B.Sc and PhD in atmospheric physics and at least 8 years of experience in the field of atmospheric physics, he went back to Hong Kong and joined the China International Capital Corporation, a state-own financial monster that helps Chinese state-own enterprises’ overseas financing. In just 2 years he ascended to the top circle of the company and in 2004 he was made the CEO. The company enjoys a de-facto monopoly in helping mega state-own enterprises’ overseas initial public offering, and he was named the 15th most influential business leader in Asia by Forbes. He now presumably resides in Hong Kong and possess a green card, with shit loads of money that you and I will never know. So much for a potential atmospheric physicist.

I mean if even the most acclaimed Chinese political figure’s son is like this, there certainly would be no exceptions that their children would be so indulged with money, power and foreign residence, and turn unanimously into a series of spoiled parasites without their own character. Maybe some of those kids could turn out to be kind of a man their father was. But I doubt it’s ever gonna happen with their golden spoon (in contrast, Xi Jingpi was hit to the rock bottom because of his dad and made his way mostly by himself). Things could only get worse. At least Zhu Yunlai got some solid science. Look at Bo Guagua and his generation, all they got is party, women, and booze (as those new nobility gets to fly alone earlier and earlier in their age). Nepotism is not what I am worried about. I am mostly haunted by the reminiscence of the old Chinese tales of A Dou, and Er Shi Zu. That reminds me of a Chinese phrase: 溺愛 (drowning indulgence). I get the idea that their parents just wanna ensure them of endless money, but please not at the expense of the vital leadership of those important sectors of China.

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5 comments

  1. One consolation is that if you look at the current crop of leadership, you already see many cases where these folks came from pretty orinary backgrounds and made it through their abilities. Hopefully, the selection process for future leaders are similar so that they can continue to have capable leadership. If that happens, it may not matter what happens to the second generation.

    1. Meritocracy is a Chinese invention. I sincerely hope the good tradition could persist and offset the damaging effect of those second generations. One optimistic point is that the upcoming leadership of China would have less engineering/science technocrats than the previous ones.

      1. Well, to make crucial social-economic decisions, I think they would not be the most suitable choice to make a thorough decision with profound societal impacts. A leader has to understand how a society works. I am just dubious about how many of those STEM technocrats would be qualified for that role.

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