Friday, 18 May 2012

The Family Business

When I was in Beijing a few years ago, I started hearing about princelings, the sons and daughters of senior officials who take advantage of their connections and make lots of money in business deals. They benefit because companies want to be successful and if that means greasing the palms of princelings, so be it.

It was an open secret and while they tried to discreetly go about these transactions, this information eventually got out to the media, and after putting the various pieces together, it forms a picture of immense wealth on a massive scale.

For example, in 2009, the Namibian government charged Nutech, the maker of scanning equipment with corruption. It turns out the president of the company was Chinese President Hu Jintao's son Hu Haifeng.

The news made a brief blip on the radar and state media were forced to severely limit their coverage of the incident, and in the end made sure Hu Haifeng was not personally responsible for the alleged corruption charges.

And I soon noticed that every single scanner installed in every subway station in Beijing to avert terrorism had the brand name Nutech.

The Hu family obviously benefited from this security policy which was originally implemented just before the Olympics, but continued ever since. Or was the policy created for Nutech?

With the recent downfall of Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai, the central government is trying hard to portray the disgraced leader as an anomaly, but everyone sees through the ruse.

The New York Times has now written an extensive story on how princelings make their money and many examples of those who have made millions if not more from their connections.

The network is now so extensive that it will be impossible for Beijing to earnestly reform the system. There are too many people with too many interests to want to see the system benefit themselves than the ordinary folk -- they want things to continue as they are despite the system possibly imploding from all the contradictions that are layered on top of each other.

So when people say they hope Vice President Xi Jinping become China's next president will lead to a better China, they are dreaming.

Xi himself is a bona fide princeling and while his daughter is extremely low key, a student studying at Harvard, it doesn't mean his other relatives aren't benefiting from their connections to him.

And Premier Wen Jiabao, the one verbally agitating for reforms has his children and wife ingratiating themselves, albeit legally.

Where does it all end?

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