26 October 2012

Politics are lucrative in China

A recent article chronicles Wen Jiabao's family's "mysterious" rise from poverty to remarkable wealth--a further sign of the corruption plaguing China's political system. Wen is generally viewed as a populist who has pushed for more balanced growth and egalitarian distribution. The trading on names to get financial favors is certainly nothing new. The Useless Tree has a good critical discussion:

[Excerpt] At one level this is utterly unsurprising.  This is how the PRC's political economy works. Those people who stand at the intersection of state and market in the partially-reformed Chinese economy are in a position to make billions of dollars (and, yes, it is ultimately about dollars, a globally convertible currency, as this article suggests).  And high level political leaders and their children and spouses and family members are very often the ones who push themselves into those positions.  We see the same pattern with Xi Jinping and Bo Xilai. That's how they roll at the top of the PRC system. The difference in the case of Wen Jiabao is that he has presented himself, and has been presented by the PRC media, as a man of modest means and tastes.  He was famous for wearing the same plain overcoat for years on end.  He styled himself a man of the people:  "Grandpa Wen" comforted victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and personally apologized for the transportation havoc wreaked by the 2006 New Year's blizzard.  Earlier this year, he made a plaintive appeal for some sort of political reformIn all of this there is a resonance with Mencius: the righteous leader, working to secure the people's basic livelihood while personally maintaining a frugal and simple lifestyle.  

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