A great leap overseas for Mao Zedong descendants?

Privileged children of China's elite often head abroad to study. Mao Xinyu's may do the same

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 March, 2013, 9:39am

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, Mao Xinyu, said he would be open to the possibility of his children studying abroad.

"We won't stop them from studying overseas providing they are willing and capable," Mao Xinyu said of his son, 10, and daughter, five, on People's Weibo, a state-owned micro-blogging service similar to the more popular Sina Weibo.

We won't stop them from studying overseas providing they are willing and capable

Mao Xinyu, 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 PLA major general in the hope of a good quote. Once in 2010, he was followed around 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.

One sarcastic commenter posted underneath a video of the interview: "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."

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

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

Privileged children of high-ranking Party officials are often sent abroad to study. Premier Wen Jiabao's son reportedly studied at Northwestern University in the US and his daughter at Harvard. Another Harvard student was the daughter of incoming president Xi Jinping, online photos suggest. It's too soon to tell whether Mao Zedong's great grandchildren will follow in their footsteps, but Mao Xinyu won't write off the possibility.