Bo Xilai

Princelings make their political comeback

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 November, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 November, 2002, 12:00am

Several princelings - sons of top leaders - have made a comeback in the Central Committee of the Communist Party announced yesterday, including the disabled son of Deng Xiaoping.

Deng Pufang, 58, finished second last on the list of alternate members for the Central Committee at the last congress in 1997, but retained his place as an alternate this time.

Crippled during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) when he was thrown out of a window by Red Guards, Mr Deng is the chairman of the China Disabled Persons' Federation, which has attracted millions of dollars in funds from foreign and domestic donors.

But dubious business ventures have made Mr Deng unpopular with many members of the party, despite the high esteem in which his father is held, making his retention of a seat a surprise.

Xi Jinping, 49, acting governor and vice-party secretary of Zhejiang province, moved to the main Central Committee after coming last on the alternate list at the previous congress in 1997.

'This means he could in future reach minister rank or above. He has benefited much from the good relations of his father and his wife, who was a famous singer. He is a stable personality, not a star,' one Chinese political scientist said.

The political scientist is the son of Xi Zhongxun, a veteran revolutionary who fought in the communist army against the Japanese and the Nationalists and held senior positions in the earlier years of the new state. Xi Zhongxun died earlier this year.

Born in 1953 in Shaanxi province, the younger Mr Xi joined the Communist Party in 1974 and graduated from the engineering chemistry department of Tsinghua University in 1979.

He served in Fujian province, starting as vice-mayor of Xiamen in 1982 and rising to the post of governor and party secretary, before being moved to Zhejiang as acting governor and vice-party secretary.

He appears to have escaped unscathed from the biggest smuggling scandal in communist China, which unfolded in the mid-1990s, when businessman Lai Changxing allegedly bribed hundreds of officials in the provincial government. Lai fled to Canada where he is fighting extradition, while more than 100 officials have been sent to prison for their involvement.

Also on the Central Committee is Bo Xilai, 53, governor of Liaoning province, who was voted off the committee in 1997. He is the son of Bo Yibo, a veteran revolutionary who also took part in the Congress.

'Bo [Xilai] has a good future too. His father has helped to promote many officials. The younger Bo has been skilful in promoting himself as the face of young, modern China,' the political scientist said.

After graduating from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 1980, Mr Bo worked in the secretariat of the Central Committee before starting his administrative career as deputy party secretary of a county on the outskirts of Dalian in Liaoning.

He became mayor of Dalian and helped make the city the richest in northeast China, with substantial foreign investment, good transport, parks and the country's top soccer team.

Other princelings on the Central Committee are Yu Zhengsheng, governor and party secretary of Hubei province and son of Yu Qiwei, former minister of machinery industry; Wang Qishan, director of the State Commission for Restructuring the Economy, son-in-law of former vice-premier Yao Yilin; and Liao Hui, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and son of Liao Chengzhi.

Also chosen were Qiao Zonghuai, vice-foreign minister and son of Qiao Guanghua, a former foreign minister; and, as an alternate member, Chen Yuan, president of the China Investment Bank and a son of Chen Yun, a veteran revolutionary. Chen Yun was voted off the Central Committee in 1997.

Anger against the princelings and their wealth, real or imagined, is widespread among the public and a main reason for cynicism and suspicion towards the party.