Defenders of this practice insist that princelings are well educated and highly qualified. Undoubtedly, some of them are; but many are not. Apologists also claim that nepotism is universal, citing examples of children of US politicians and business leaders who have graduated from Ivy League universities and secured private-sector jobs.
However, hiring Chinese princelings is not the moral equivalent of US-style nepotism. The political and social environments in which the two practices occur are completely different. In the US, nepotism is difficult to hide, and public scrutiny helps to check its most blatant manifestations. The democratic process, particularly the role played by a free press, constrains rent-seeking by children of government officials.
In China, by contrast, pervasive corruption, the absence of a free press and state capitalism mean that princelings’ conduct is unconstrained and typically shrouded in secrecy. Chinese censors methodically suppress news coverage of their business dealings.
Now, in light of the controversy over JPMorgan’s hiring of Chinese princelings, Western academic and business leaders must ask themselves a tough question: Do they want to be complicit in helping the Party perpetuate its hereditary rule?
Minxin Pei is a professor of government at Claremont
McKenna College and a non-resident senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the US.
Copyright: Project Syndicate