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SOCIETY

Mao Zedong granddaughter on rich list, prompting debate

Mao Zedong's granddaughter and her husband appear on the latest rich list as survey suggests that who, not what, you know is still important

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 May, 2013, 3:12pm

The addition of the granddaughter of Mao Zedong to a list of the richest Chinese - along with a survey suggesting that graduates from well-connected families tend to find better jobs - has triggered fresh debate about political connections and personal wealth.

With family assets estimated at 5 billion yuan (HK$6.25 billion), Kong Dongmei , granddaughter of the late leader, and husband Chen Dongsheng are 242nd on the 2013 New Fortune 500 Rich List, media reports said yesterday.

Chen is chairman of Beijing-based Taikang Life Insurance, and Kong is a major shareholder and executive. She is the daughter of Li Min , Mao's only surviving child with second wife He Zizhen , and joined the start-up insurance company in 1992 after graduating from the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Kong also earned a master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1999. As president of a cultural company in Beijing, with a bookshop aimed at protecting Communist culture, Kong has capitalised on her grandfather's name. She also wrote four bestsellers about him.

The revelation of Kong's family fortune seems to contradict Major General Mao Xinyu , the offspring of Mao's second son. He told mainland media in 2009: "The Mao family heritage is honest and clean. None of the Mao family members have entered business. They all live on their modest salaries."

Meanwhile, a survey conducted by the China Data Centre at Tsinghua University found that graduates from families where the father or mother were officials could earn 15 per cent more than their counterparts.

In the Beijing Evening Post yesterday, Li Hongbin, deputy director of the centre, said the data suggested family background was behind the 15 per cent difference in starting pay.

"There is clear evidence that … official family backgrounds accounted for the additional assets," Li said.

The survey, which polled 6,059 graduates from 19 universities since 2010, found that more children from well-connected families were recruited by the finance industry, government agencies, and social institutions and international organisations, while more graduates from ordinary families went to industrial sectors, such as mining, manufacturing and construction.

The poll appears to indicate that patronage is a key element in the widening income gap among people from different backgrounds.

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whymak
CHAIRMAN MAO
To reader “lib_prc”, I agree Mao saved China. He got rid of foreign occupation and exploitation once and for all, for which all Chinese should be eternally grateful.
But his fanaticism for altering human nature to suit his Utopia and his economics illiteracy drove China's industrial progress into the ground. He was a tyrant. Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution are China shame!
When all is thoroughly analyzed, said and done for, it still leaves me much room to admire Chairman Mao, warts and all, for his heroic romanticism and his military genius. His quintessential Chinese soul embodies our dynastic tyrannies, the wisdom of Sun Tzu, 孫子 , the literary tradition of Tang and Song, 唐宋 , and the patriotic heroism of Yue Fei 岳飛 all rolled into one.
So my friend with your strong Chinese identity should sober up a little. A little reason is what it takes. Take Deng Xiaoping as another Chinese example. He fixed Mao's mistakes. Better yet, he did away with the ancient Chinese personality cult. Imagine, the spirit of the ideal and policies of the Song reformist Wang An Shi 王安石 never realized in his own time and the subsequent millennium is now taking root in present day People's Republic in this 21st Chinese Century.
whymak
SOCIETY & GOVERNANCE I
Reader “stephenKent,” you have much to learn about human nature and the art in the exercise of governance power, which is defined by the performance level of societal welfare at a sustainable equilibrium, i.e., Pareto efficiency. Equilibrium, the level of balance, depends intricately on culture, stage of economic development and the size of population.
The higher the population, the more "violations" there are in an individual sense of fairness and justice at this ideal societal balance. Since the level of difficulty in governance increases exponentially with size, a linear increase in violations should be used as ONE of the benchmarks for governance. This is a political economist’s approach. But first, you must quantify violations.
For example, let’s use incarceration rate per 100,000 as a relative metric. The US imprisons 6 times as much as China (716 to 120). A society optimized still leaves plenty of individuals dissatisfied. Hence many incidents of “crimes” and need for prisons. Never mind the nature and causes of crimes. In a Pareto optimized society, crimes against governance and other individuals are eternally intertwined.
The reason for Pareto efficiency is to ensure the balance between individual and group “survivals” (another word for interests). Survival of the human race must not take a backseat to culturally specific moral systems euphemized as a system of universal values.
whymak
SOCIETY & GOVERNANCE II
Adam Smith gets my nod as the great intuitive, scientific moral philosopher. He describes a well-functioned political economy with brilliant postulates and hypotheses about human nature, social dynamics and markets.
Charles Darwin provides empirical evidence to the overarching principle of natural selection, which highlights the balanced survival between man and society. Survival in turn points to the need for moral behavior, of which England’s mercantile system of Adam Smith arises as AN INSTANCE of a scientifically moral society. Of course, the cause of natural selection, mutation, has its root in molecular theory.
Philosophers and economists stitch together the crazy quilt of political economy with the utility principle and mathematics of optimization.
In descending order of fundamental significance in science, it reads physics, biology, philosophy, economics and governance.
You said, “he (Mao) is still held up as the icon of the country…everything Mao was supposedly against as well as modern China, suggesting that Mao would detest China as it stands.”
That’s a terribly naïve, and perhaps the most stupid statement. If your neighbor, a cosmologist, goes to church on Sundays, do you needle him incessantly about his hypocrisy that while doing experiments confirming 13.72 billion year origin of the universe, he is professing faith from the Bible that accepts nothing less than a God created universe no older than 7 millennia?
263423520@qq.com
This is not just happening in China,why not talk about American?!
Martin Jhon
Chinese traditional religions Taoism , Buddhism and Confucianism were basically without any POLITICAL and TOTALITARIAN agenda and motives . The communist empire will gradually destroyed by foreign religious and philosophical campaigns and forces ........... From Central Asia to Indonesia vast historically existing cultures , religions , philosophies , political systems , social laws , monuments , literature , social fabrications were destroyed and wiped out . The same thing is happening in S Korea and China presently ......
whymak
"Kong has capitalised on her grandfather's (Mao's) name. She also wrote four bestsellers about him."
I believe Mao was both China's savior and tyrant. But yours is a cheap shot.
George W. Bush avoided combat duty during Vietnam war with his father pulling strings. Mao's son, Anying, died in Korean War combat.
"...the data suggested family background was behind the 15 per cent difference in starting pay." Another attempt in quoting something out of context to bash China?
In the US, children of top 1% income have starting salaries many times that of the middle class. Children of my upper middle class friends in North America seem to enjoy much higher salaries than the 15% you're talking about. Why? Attending better schools and achieving better academic records seem to favor families that already had a head start. Overall, children from well-off parents have an advantage.
During Hong Kong's transition from a developing economy to the 1980s, I find there was much more upward mobility than today. China is probably not much different.
I went to SJC in the 50s. There was a huge discrepancy between the rich and poor students back in those days. In alumni lunches and dinners, I must say that we have all made it to solid middle class or better. It's truly remarkable. Hong Kong might be losing its upward mobility.
Democracy faith in entitlement and limitless freedom does little for the lower middle class because whining has been substituted for learning.
stephenkent
There's nothing surprising about this, it just amusingly captures the course of recent Chinese history in a nutshell. It's amusing because Kong's grandfather's picture still hangs in Tiananmen Square and he is still held up as the icon of the country whereas his granddaughter could be both a symbol of everything Mao was supposedly against as well as modern China, suggesting that Mao would detest China as it stands. The CCP, unable to acknowledge what has actually happened, regularly adjust their doctrine to try and make it coherent, resulting in ideologies like "Marxist capitalist state socialist communism with free market Chinese characteristics", or whatever it is these days.
It's like Milton Freedman's grandson becoming a communist revolutionary then opening a bookshop to preserve capitalist culture and failing to see any irony in it.
whymak
Please read my response above.
stephenkent
Err, OK, I read your reply, and I am not sure your rambling lecture has that much to do with my comment. I was merely suggesting that this situation, where a relative of Mao's who is only two generations removed from the man himself is now one of the richest people in China, demonstrates how much China has changed in a short space of time and that the direction of this change has been very much contrary to the direction Mao was taking the country in. Thus it can be predicted that he wouldn't agree with it, but the CCP cannot openly acknowledge that they have all but abandoned his ideas because they owe the fact that they are in power to him. I find these circumstances, and the contradictions they through up, amusing. That's all. Fairly simple I think. If, however, you want to continue regurgitating text books you've read, then be my guest.
lib_prc

SCMP just wants to prove that the highly respected Mao family (which may well be the last truly respected family left in China...) stoops as low as Mr. Wen types...not convinced sorry! A lot of Chinese people (like me) still feel indebted to Mr. Mao and his family (and making sure his loved ones are taken good care of is the least we can do for him...happy that Ms. Kong, a gracious looking princess, married well)...so I will not join the Mao bashing guys...have fun by yourselves!

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