Young Chinese believe powerful dads are key to doing well in life

How popular phrase speaks to broad belief connections trump qualifications in life

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 January, 2018, 12:49pm

To do well in the mainland nowadays, it pays to have a powerful dad.

This is the view of more than four-fifths of young people polled in a recent online survey. Indeed, many believe getting into elite schools, securing a good job or getting on the property ladder is less about being clever or working hard than whether their father has the clout to pull the right strings.

A shorthand phrase that encapsulates this attitude has become common currency in recent years. It is pin die, which translates to "compare daddies", or, more precisely, "compare the power of daddies".

One of the more sensational examples of pin die occurred in 2010 in a hit-and-run case involving a drink driver who hit two students, one of whom later died.

When stopped by security guards the driver, convinced his father's position as a police official made him immune, yelled: "Go ahead, sue me if you dare. My dad is Li Gang!" Pin die didn't work in that case. The driver was sentenced to six years in jail.

Pin die is often connected to two other terms: "the second wealth generation", those with rich fathers; and " the second official generation", those whose fathers are important government officials.

Media reports commenting on the extravagant lifestyles and early promotions enjoyed by these second-generation types are by no means rare.

This was not the case a couple of decades ago when the popular self-inspirational motto was: "Be good at studying maths, physics and chemistry, and you will never worry about finding jobs."

The more common refrain now is: "It's better to have a powerful father than to do well at maths, physics or chemistry."

In the poll carried out by the China Youth Daily and early this month 83.5 per cent of 3,800 internet users surveyed said they hoped they could take the pin die line. A similar percentage said success for most people was due to the family advantages, while 10 per cent said most people relied on their own efforts to achieve success.

Nearly a quarter of the people surveyed said they would ask their parents for help when encountering difficulties, 36 per cent said that they did not have powerful fathers, while the rest said they would solve their problems by themselves.

Asked why people preferred to use the leverage of their parents, or envied those who already did so, two-thirds said it was because of the enormous hardships that life imposes.

Peking University sociology professor Lu Linhui said the prevalence of the pin die attitude was far higher now than in the 1980's or '90's.

"The reality is that jobs with high pay, decent remuneration and a promising future have become more and more distant for young people from impoverished families," he told the China Youth Daily. "It's because senior officials control the allocation of resources and they are seldom supervised."

In recruitment material produced by the Jinan branch of China Merchants Bank leaked on the internet in December, some university graduate candidates were noted as having senior officials in the bank or in the municipal government as patrons, The Beijing News reported.

The requirement for positions in the bank stipulates that candidates should be from key mainland universities, but many of those mentioned in the bank materials had no such qualification.

Xiong Jun, an advertising salesman in Shanghai, said many of his peers secured jobs in either lucrative government departments or big state-owned enterprises thanks to their "influential daddies".

"I cannot feel at peace when I see these things, but I can do nothing," said Xiong, 27. "Sometimes I lament that I don't have a good family."