Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

China in transition 3 – putting a change of leadership in context – 1

Posted in macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on April 8, 2012

This is my third installment in a series on the transition in power and governance that China is facing, starting late this year and effectively continuing into 2013 (see Part 1: balancing hope and expectations and Part 2: confronting the challenges, and the challenge of confrontation .)

As already noted and at least initially discussed, 2012 will mark a very significant change in power and leadership and both for the Chinese Communist Party and for its most senior governmental leadership – and with that including their seeing Hu Jintao, leader of both China’s Communist Party and Government stepping down from both offices.

The rising star set to replace him in these offices is in all probability going to be Xi Jinping. I wrote about him and his background in Parts 1 and 2 of this series and one detail that I raised there was that he approaches this change in fortune and responsibility with a dual, and in some respects seemingly contradictory background. On the one hand he went through some of his formative years the son of a man who had fallen into disgrace. As such, he went through a significant period of his own life where if he was to succeed, he had to do so in large part on his own merits. But on the other hand, I noted that his father had a personal history with Mao Zedong and the founding of the People’s Republic of China that went back to the earliest days of the revolution that brought Mao into power. And his father, Xi Zhongxun was brought back into the fold and went on to build a positive reputation for creating change that has simply become more and more important to China and certainly as that country opens up to the West and to the world economically and through trade. So Xi Jinping can also be seen as a true member of China’s new aristocracy – its Crown Prince Party as the children of the powerful and powerfully connected are called. And at the end of Part 2 I stated that I would turn to a very different sort of member of that privileged class: Mao Zedong’s grandson Mao Xinyu.

My goal in that is to more fully discuss the challenges that any new leader in China would face dealing with entrenched interests as he set out to address the challenges that China now faces (see Part 5 of my series China and Our Increasingly Interconnected Global Economy for a partial listing and discussion of some of them.)

No one actually knows how many sons and daughters Mao Zedong fathered, and I know this is a controversial statement even as I state it. He is officially credited with a total of ten but it is at least reliably rumored that he had quite an appetite for the ladies and throughout his adult life, and that as he got older this came to mean teenage girls and a lot of them. My point is that there may be more people carrying his genes than are officially recognized. But setting aside any unrecognized heirs and descendants, Mao is officially acknowledged as having had children. And his officially acknowledged children were most definitely nurtured as leading members of China’s Crown Prince Party. And with that I turn to his last known surviving son: Mao Anqing and to his one son Mao Xinyu.

Anqing was the second of three sons of Mao Zedong and his second wife, Yáng Kāihuì. He was born on November 2, 1923 and was just days past his seventh birthday when his mother was executed by a local Kuomintang warlord, He Jian. Legend has it that she was shot in retribution for refusing to denounce either Mao Zedong or the Communist movement that he was fighting to bring to power. Mao Anqing, and his two brothers, Mao Anying and Mao Anlong (his younger) brother were brought to Shanghai when this happened. Anying was killed in 1950 in an air strike during the Korean War and Anlong died at the age of four in 1931 during China’s civil war.

Mao Anqing suffered from mental illness for much of his life and was institutionalized a number of times. He lived for the most part in his father’s shadow and under his protection. He worked as a researcher at China’s Academy of Military Science and then for the Central Committee of the Communist Party, serving as a Russian translator for their Publicity Department.

Mao Anqing married Shao Hua in 1960. She went on to develop a very significant career on her own, rising, for example to the rank of Major General in the People’s Liberation Army. They had one son, Mao Xinyu. He and his son, Mao Dongdong, born in 2003 are Mao Zedong’s only known still living male descendants. Mao Zedong, I add, is officially known to have had ten children though as I noted earlier, he might very well have actually had more – but these two male heirs hold a very special position in China.

Mao Xinyu was born January 17, 1970. Xi Jinping was born in 1953 so he is significantly older than Mao’s grandson, the Crown Prince of China’s Crown Prince Party who I would cite here in understanding the challenges that Xi Jinping now faces. Mao Xinyu is identified as an historian and a military officer. He graduated from the History Department of Renmin University of China in 1992 and was awarded a doctorate as an expert in his grandfather’s political doctrine and on Communist theory and ideology. He holds the rank of Major General and in fact is the youngest person to have ever reached any General Officer rank in the People’s Liberation Army. Even in China and within that army his promotion to the top has been criticized as nepotism. He holds numerous advisory positions at the national governmental level and since September, 2011 he also holds a professorship in the teaching of Mao Zedong’s thoughts at Guangzhou University.

I know the basic story of what titles he holds and how young he was when he was advanced to hold them. I do not know how effective Mao Xinyu is in carrying out any of the responsibilities that would at least nominally go along with these positions of responsibility. For purpose of this posting, however, that does not matter. What does is that privilege and the opportunities and prerogatives of the Crown Prince Party can be found throughout China’s national and I add provincial governments and in China’s Communist Party at both levels too. Any real change that Xi Jinping or any other new leader would seek to bring about, in addressing China’s current and emerging challenges, would have to be developed and implemented in the face of entrenched resistance that would see real change as personal threat.

I have been discussing the Crown Prince Party and their prerogatives here, but the same could be said about government officials – elected and appointed into the state bureaucracy, who see their personal power coming from how they can and do game the system already in place and to their advantage. I note that I cited this and the corruption it entails in my list of China’s challenges as cited above.

I have already posted some 1300 words here so I will stop at this point for now, picking up on this discussion in a next installment in a few days. My focus there will be on connecting this already far-flung narrative together, with a focus on the challenges that China faces and the challenge of even acknowledging them let along addressing them.

Meanwhile, you can find this posting and series, and related postings at Macroeconomics and Business and also see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time.

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