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.