Is an age of golden sons-in-law on the way?

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 March, 2013, 8:14pm
UPDATED : Monday, 18 March, 2013, 8:14pm

Are we going to see a growing number of golden sons-in-law in the Chinese political arena in the future? As Xinhua recently reported, most of the current leaders appear to have daughters not sons.

To mark the completion of China’s once-in-a decade power transition over the past few months, state-owned news agency Xinhua published a series of official profiles of the new political stars. The reports revealed the number of children each leader had and their gender.

Some careful readers pointed out that most of the top national leaders have daughters not sons – President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, chairman of the national parliament Zhang Dejiang, and three of the four vice-premiers all have a daughter.

Some internet users asked if they should be called princesslings, a female take on the concept of the princelings, a term coined to describe the privileged sons of past Chinese leaders who benefited from their family’s influence and connections and took senior political posts.

But unlike their male counterparts, these daughters might find it hard to succeed politically. The number of women in senior positions in Chinese political institutions still lags far behind the number of men. None of the most powerful seven standing committee members is female and only two of the 25 politburo members are women.

If this trend continues, it might be the husbands of these privileged daughters that benefit from the political inheritance of their fathers-in-law.

A current example is the son-in-law of former vice premier of China Yao Yilin, Wang Qishan, who rose through the ranks to become one of the current seven standing committee members.

Meanwhile the observation has also become a heated topic among users of Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.

“I respect them for all strictly complying with the one-child policy,” one user said, referring to the fact that it is common for officials and wealthy families in China to use their influence and money to defy government policy and have more than one child.

“It’s actually not too much of a surprise as they are in line with some other world leaders,” another weibo user observed, noting that Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton all have daughters, while Vladimir Putin and Ma Ying-jeou each have two daughters. Another user summarised the advantages for leaders of having daughters instead of sons. “Daughters are generally well-behaved.”

History supports the user’s opinion. Several spoiled sons of Chinese officials have committed offences but acted as if they were above the law. Their behaviour consequently disgraced their fathers and generated public anger and resentment towards the special treatment afforded to government officials and their offspring.