Zheng Yefu, the pen name of a retired sociologist and former professor at Peking University, wrote an article about the children of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) elite choosing to live overseas that has become a viral sensation on Chinese social media.
Zheng’s article essentially argues that the children of China’s rich and privileged political elite are embarrassingly unwilling to live under the rule of their authoritarian parents. Even more embarrassing is that most of them seem to prefer life in the United States.
A longtime gadfly of the CCP, Zheng is one of the few prominent scholars who can get away with seriously criticizing the regime. His previous broadsides include advising the CCP to take lessons in good governance from Taiwan, hectoring top Chinese leaders to disclose all of their assets to prove they are not corrupt, and musing that the Chinese people would benefit greatly if the CCP agreed to “peacefully fade from history.”
Zheng’s latest bombshell predicts that the CCP might end up fading away because the next generation of Chinese leaders are heading West as fast as they can pack their bags.
“They don’t love the power, they love America,” Zheng said of the children of top CCP leaders. This an especially shameful observation at a time when the CCP strives to portray the U.S. as a “rogue” and “barbaric” nation hell-bent on starting a new Cold War because its leaders are jealous of China’s success and want to unfairly punish it by banning high-quality Chinese imports, including the odd high-quality coronavirus.
Zheng argued that China’s leaders are hypocritical for using brute force to “maintain stability” and “safeguard the country created by the great Communist Party” when their offspring do not want to live in the worker’s paradise. He noted the younger generation of Chinese elites have more access to information from the outside world than the average citizen, and more freedom to travel there, so they are more keenly aware of how the CCP uses unsavory authoritarian techniques to maintain its power.
Voice of America News (VOA) quoted readers of Zheng’s work and said young Chinese elites are prudently choosing to live abroad because they do not want to be socially or physically destroyed when their families lose one of China’s constant political battles.
“For the second or third generation reds, if you lose in the power struggle, you are going to lose everything. Compare that to your opportunity to live a peaceful life in a free and democratic environment. So for some, they choose to stay away from the mess,” explained human rights activist Hu Jia.
VOA quoted several sources to convey a sense of how many Chinese elites have decided they would rather live in America:
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s only daughter, Xi Mingze, was educated at Harvard. Two of the party’s last three top leaders, former President Zhao Ziyang and Jiang Zemin, had grandchildren who attended Harvard. Jia Qinglin, a former member of the Politburo Standing Committee, the party’s highest ruling organ, had a granddaughter at Stanford. The now disgraced former Chongqing party star Bo Xilai, is the father of Bo Guagua, who had attended the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
The Washington Post reported that at least five of the nine members of the last Politburo Standing Committee have children or grandchildren who studied in the United States.
The Washington-based Migration Policy Institute noted in a report that affluent and educated elites are the main force driving emigration from China to the U.S.
According to a report from the China-based wealth research firm Hurun Research Institute, more than a third of rich Chinese “are currently considering” emigrating to another country, for better education systems elsewhere and to flee the country’s polluted cities and strict government, as well as protecting their wealth.
Another aspect of Chinese life that might be weighing heavily on the minds of elite children is the pronounced shift away from young leadership in favor of ancient, stodgy, politically-reliable administrators and Politburo members.
Xi Jinping effectively made himself dictator for life with constitutional revisions in 2018, and his regime has been distinctly uninterested in promoting new political talent or nourishing young leaders. Student protesters have been a constant thorn in Xi’s side, from the pro-democracy youth of Hong Kong to the frustrated young Marxists of Chinese universities.
Even the children of the most reliable Communist Party stalwarts must worry that it will be a long time before they have an opportunity to fulfill their own political ambitions. Sitting in a rubber-stamp legislature where proposals for meaningful reform are treated like treason isn’t much of an ambition anyway.