'I'll break your legs if you go into business': former president's career advice to children

Li Xiannian was clear he wanted his offspring to avoid becoming officials, rich or famous, his daughter tells newspaper

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 March, 2014, 1:02pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 March, 2014, 1:54pm

Former president Li Xiannian warned his children he would break their legs if they went into business, according to a mainland news report.

Li’s daughter, Li Xiaolin, said her father was a strict parent who wanted his children to have normal jobs and not become officials, rich or famous, the Changjiang Daily reported.

The sons and daughters of senior officials, nicknamed princelings, often take advantage of their connections to further their careers.

“I’ll break your legs if any of you want to do business,” Li once told his children over the dinner table, the report said.

Li Xiaolin said apart from business, he did not mind what they did as long as they did it well.

“This was our family’s style,” she said.

Li was president between 1983 and 1988 and served in the PLA in the 1930s.

Li Xiaolin, who comes from Hongan county in Hubei province, is the youngest of the former president’s four children.

She studied foreign languages at Wuhan University and apart from a two-year stint as a secretary at the Chinese embassy in the United States, has worked at the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries her entire working life. She is now president of the diplomatic organisation and a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference’s national committee.

Li Xiaolin said she had originally wanted to become a doctor.

“That’s not a bad idea, but you’ve been timid since a child,” she recalled her father once said. “Do you think you’ll be able to look at blood all day long? Consider it carefully.”

Her sisters are both doctors and her brother is an army general.

Former president Li died in 1992.