Princelings seek to uphold the ideals of Mao's revolution in China

Offspring of Communist Party elders cast themselves as upholders of socialism's ideals

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 December, 2013, 5:04am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 December, 2013, 5:04am

While some see the rich and powerful offsprings of Communist Party elders as a new aristocracy, some members of the so-called red second generation are holding fast to socialism and pushing to restore the country's revolutionary values.

Such princelings include participants in the Founding Fathers Culture Promotion Association. The group hosted the first of what it hoped will become an annual gathering at the Yuanwanglou Hotel in western Beijing last month.

Chen Renkang, 60, donned a grey Red Army uniform and a red-star cap for the occasion. He and his group, the Red Army Teaching Group, pass on their fathers' stories in Jinggangshan , Jiangxi province to People's Liberation Army soldiers, students and enterprise owners. Since 2009, they have taught thousands.

"I feel proud. It's like experiencing a second spring in my life," Chen said. "By telling people the stories of my father's generation, I'm passing on their beliefs."

Chen's father, general Chen Shiju, was a key revolutionary military leader and fought numerous battles before the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949. He is considered one of the founders of the country's military.

Chen followed in his father's footsteps. He joined the People's Liberation Army at the age of 16 and spent 17 years there. He later took up an administrative post at the University of International Business and Economics.

He says he misses the equality and moral clarity of his father's era and worries that growing social problems may undo the first red generation's accomplishments.

"I'm not satisfied. The gap between the rich and the poor has deepened in recent years," Chen said. "As social problems emerge in China, I'm worried that the worst-case scenario might occur. I don't want to see the country which my father's generation shed blood for decline."

The Founding Fathers Culture Promotion Association was set up as a way to address such concerns. The group has about 30 active members, many of them in their 70s and retired.

"We want to use our fathers' stories to educate today's young people so they don't lose faith in communism," said Xu Wenhui, 74, one of the group's directors and the daughter of Xu Haidong , a senior general in the PLA. The association has published the memoirs of party elders.

Hu Muying, 72, similarly set up the Yanan Children's Friendship Association to help members of the red second generation network and advocate the values of their parents. "We are not denying China's economic success," said Hu, whose father, Hu Qiaomu, was a personal secretary to late Communist Party leader Mao Zedong and a key author of the country's constitution.

"But I am worried about the gap between the rich and poor. I am worried about corruption," she said. "Many people feel the party will suffer a crisis if it does not get back on the right track."

The groups have produced a documentary with interviews of more than 100 princelings.

"Many of us are upset because the mass media and public opinion are negative about the party," Hu said. "Our fathers sacrificed their lives to establish this country. As their descendants, we have to hold on to their beliefs, protect the country and prevent the party from falling off a cliff."

She said that members of her father's generation taught their children not to seek power and money. Most people with her background had become engineers or ordinary public servants, she said.

"We are proud that we are the red second generation," she said. "We are different from new party members. We uphold core values and principles."