Bo Xilai

Could Mao Zedong's great grandchildren be making long march to US universities?

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 March, 2013, 1:41pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 March, 2013, 9:37pm


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Could Harvard be on the cards for the great grandchildren of China's revolutionary leader Mao Zedong?

Granted, they are currently still 10 and five years old. But their father, PLA major general Mao Xinyu, said he would be open to the possibility of his children studying abroad. Mao Xinyu is one of the founding leader's four grandchildren, and the only one fathered by a son. 

“We won’t stop them from studying overseas providing they are willing and capable,” Mao Xinyu said of his son, 10, and daughter, 5, on People’s Weibo, a state-owned microblogging service similar to the more popular Sina Weibo.

Mao Xinyu, a military researcher and a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, was in Beijing this week to attend the annual parliamentary meetings, where he is a media favourite - known for his off-the-wall comments and comical behaviour.

His remark about his children is the latest to draw the attention of journalists, who every year chase down the chubby major general in hopes for a good quote. Once in 2010, he was followed around at Tiananmen Square for so long that he forgot where his car was parked. Disoriented, he left reporters with only one word about the parliamentary sessions: "Good."

His oddball persona is often the subject of ridicule on Chinese social media.

He was said to be "talking nonsense" about China's housing crisis and health care reform during an interview with Phoenix television.

Under a video of the interview, one sarcastic commenter posted: "General Mao has a great gift: the ability to talk for four straight minutes without actually saying anything."

Mao was also seen picking his nose in a video interview while reciting a poem by his grandfather.

In another interview, he said: "Napoleon, Clausewitz [author of On War], even Stalin are all considered to be great military theorists... but they still cannot compare with my grandfather."

Mao has also been made fun of for saying: "Mao Zedong's military theory is far better than the The Art of War."

Online critics often say Mao climbed the military ladder because of his last name, and not because of merit. He was promoted to major general at age 39 in 2009, becoming the youngest general in China.

He claims he was promoted on his "own efforts" - after all, he once was a student of his grandfather's political theories, or Mao Zedong Thought. If his children go abroad, it will be unlikely they will do the same.

The children, Mao Dongdong and Mao Tianyi, are from Mao Xinyu's second wife, Liu Bin, whom he married in 2002, according to Xinhua news agency.

Privileged children of high-ranking Communist Party officials are often sent abroad to study. The practise has become a sensitive topic of late as public anger has increased over revelations of corrupt officials. Critics have long questioned how they could afford their children's overseas tuition on goverment salaries.

Fallen Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai, now facing trial over graft and abuse of power, said his son's education was paid for through scholarships. Bo Guagua studied in Britain and graduated from Harvard University last year.

Premier Wen Jiabao's son reportedly studied at Northwestern University in the United States, and his daughter at Harvard. Another Harvard student was the daughter of incoming president Xi Jinping, if photos circulating online are to be believed. 

It's much too soon to tell whether Mao Zedong's great grandchildren will follow in their footsteps, but Mao Xinyu won't write off the possibility.