Fortune of Xi Jinping's family revealed

Sat, Jun 30, 2012, 01:00

CLOSE RELATIVES of China’s anointed supreme leader Xi Jinping have companies with €300 million in assets, an 18 per cent indirect stake in a rare-earths firm with €1.4 billion in assets and a €16 million holding in a tech company, Bloomberg has reported.

The explosive report by the financial news agency makes no link between Mr Xi, his wife, folk singer Peng Liyuan, or their daughter, and the multibillion euro assets held by his extended family.

Bloomberg, the New York-based financial news service, took pains not to make any accusations of wrongdoing against Mr Xi, who made a successful visit to Ireland in February which helped to boost trade links between this country and the world’s second biggest economy.

However, the revelations come as Beijing is engaged in a highly public crackdown on corruption.

The report emerges just as China is gearing up for Mr Xi to take over as Communist Party leader in the autumn, and president next spring.

“This is not enough on its own to derail the succession, but it is seriously embarrassing,” said Steve Yui-Sang Tsang, professor of contemporary Chinese studies and director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham.

In a sign of how sensitive these kind of revelations can be, China blocked access to Bloomberg’s website on the mainland after the report was published and also appeared to block a number of Bloomberg sites on Sina Weibo, the Chinese Twitter-like service.

The atmosphere in Chinese political circles is particularly jittery now following the purge in March of Bo Xilai as party chief of China’s biggest municipality Chongqing in an alleged corruption and murder scandal involving his wife, Gu Kailai.

While the report is based on going through public records rather than relying on the unnamed source material which has characterised developments in the Bo Xilai affair, the timing of the revelations is interesting given that the next stage in the Bo saga is expected soon.

The incident has fed the public perception that officials are on the take and has brought particular attention to bear on the children of the revolutionary elite, known as the “princelings”, of whom Mr Bo is one.

Mr Xi and his three siblings are also “princelings”, the children of veteran revolutionary and guerrilla leader Xi Zhongxun, who helped Mao Zedong win the civil war in 1949.

Ho-fung Hung, associate professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins University, said the report was interesting but not especially surprising.

“I would be surprised if there were no reports of these links,” Mr Hung said.

“It confirms the perception that the whole leadership uses connections. He has a lot of relatives overseas, he is the only child of Xi Zhongxun still in China.

“It is the nature of the game to have this kind of connection,” he added.

Mr Xi earned his stripes when he dealt with a smuggling scandal in the southern Fujian province and presided over a clampdown on corruption in the eastern province of Zhejiang.

The report said most of the assets were held by Mr Xi’s older sister Qi Qiaoqiao, her husband Deng Jiagui and her daughter.

Mr Deng held an indirect 18 per cent stake in a rare-earths company while Ms Qi and Mr Deng held assets in a property and a diversified holding company called Shenzhen Yuanwei Investment Co totalling 1.83 billion yuan (€230 million), among other assets, the report said.

Wu Long, another brother-in- law of Mr Xi, ran a telecommunications company named New Postcom Equipment Co.

“I don’t think it’s going to have as much of a negative impact on Xi as we may think because the succession arrangement is something quite delicate . . . to change the succession would take more than a scandal like this,” said Prof Tsang.

“First off, it’s not him, it’s his sister, and secondly, every one in the leadership suffers from the same problem. If they made something of it, it could backfire on them.”

It has been known for four years that Mr Xi was in line for the top leadership, which gives those around him ample opportunity to take advantage of their proximity to the source of power.

There are often questions about the corporate links of Hu Jintao’s son, Hu Haifengs, while there are regular stories in Taiwanese media about the personal fortune of Chinese premier Wen Jiabao’s wife, Zhang Beili.

“This is how they like to do it. You have the same situation with Hu and Wen,” Prof Tsang said. “No one has found evidence on Hu or Wen themselves, but look at Wen’s wife and Hu’s son, they are doing incredibly well – but it’s not enough to get Hu or Wen.”