Chinese ‘princelings’ adherents of populism: Wang Dan

By Su Yung-yao and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Mon, Apr 08, 2013 - Page 3

Calls for a crackdown on corruption made by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and the “princelings” he represents are more a political show than an indication of intent, while the faction’s tendency toward nationalism does not mean they consider themselves part of the “proletariat,” Taiwan Tsing Hua University professor and former Tiananmen Square student leader Wang Dan (王丹) wrote yesterday.

The term “princeling” refers to the offspring of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) founding members, such as generals Wang Zhen (王震) and Yeh Jianying (葉劍英); Yu Chiwei (俞啟威), also known by his pseudonym Huang Jing (黃敬); former Chinese premier Li Peng (李鵬) and Xi Zhongxun (習仲勛), Xi Jinping’s father.

In an article titled The Unfinished Transition of Power and posted on the New Society for Taiwan’s Web site, Wang Dan’s said that with Xi Jinping and the princelings in power, Chinese politics is headed for a period of instability.

The article said that the princelings had four characteristics that could lead to political instability: They are more emotional; not afraid to express themselves and show their strong personalities; they are politically divided and they are more likely to say that they understand the difficulties of the people, while not considering themselves part of the proletariat, but above them.


During the political upheaval that ensued in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) soon after its founding, many of the CCP’s founding members were sent to the countryside for “philosophical rehabilitation.” Xi Zhongxun, Bo Yibo (薄一波), father to Bo Xilai (薄熙來), and Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) were such members.

On the characteristic of being more “emotional,” Wang Dan pointed to former Chongqing CCP secretary Bo Xilai’s public slapping of his chief of police, Wang Lijun (王立軍), over his handling of his wife’s, Gu Kailai (谷開來), case, causing Wang Lijun to visit the US consulate in Chengdu seeking asylum.

Bo Xilai was sacked from his position as Chongqing’s party chief “in light of the serious political repercussions of the Wang Lijun incident,” effectively removing him from the role of contender in the 18th Party Congress last year, Wang Dan said.

Gu became as suspect in the investigation into the mysterious death of British businessman Neil Heywood, as a prime suspect in his murder.

Gu has since been given a suspended death sentence.

Wang Dan also cited Xi Jinping as an example of a politician capable of emotional outbursts, pointing to how Xi during his tour of Latin America in 2009 had said: “There are some bored foreigners, with full stomachs, who have nothing better to do than point fingers at us [China]. First, China doesn’t export revolution. Second, China doesn’t export hunger and poverty. Third, China doesn’t come and cause you headaches, what more is there to be said?”

Wang Dan added that the current generation of Chinese political leaders was more emotional and less guarded in their behavior in part because of their family backgrounds, which served to sweep aside much of the opposition they encountered, adding that such behavior encouraged members of the faction to manifest their own personal characteristics.

Wang Dan said that the divisiveness of the princelings faction contrasted with the unity of the unofficial Youth League faction, of which former Chinese president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) was a member, adding as an example how Xi Jinping and Bo had clashed before even coming to power.

This shows the severe difference of opinions within the faction, Wang Dan said, adding that much of the antagonism stemmed from their fathers’ generation.


Aside from former Chinese leader Mao Zedong (毛澤東), most of the members of the CCP that founded the People’s Republic of China were more or less equal in station and power, and some of the political and war-time differences and grudges would of course pass over to their successors who are now fighting for positions of power, Wang Dan said.

Also saying that some of the princelings had been in the countryside for a time after their fathers lost power, Wang Dan said that the princelings tend to lean toward nationalism and use language that would draw people closer to them.

The princelings are more prone to acting out political drama to win the support of the people than the Youth League, Wang Dan said, adding that the repeated calls for anti-corruption since Xi Jinping had been sworn in as the official head of state were only a ploy to meet the public’s expectations.

“We will be seeing more of these events in the future, but we should keep in mind that such actions do not mean that the ruling elite consider themselves part of the proletariat,” Wang Dan said.

He added that the princeling would be at best adherents to populism, but certainly not democracy.

Wang concluded his analyses by saying that “personality dictates fate,” adding that the political personalities of the princelings would give Chinese politics “a stage filled with incessant plays” and that there could be no stable development of China under their rule.