If you follow Chinese politics at all, you’ll have heard of a word that’s become synonymous with corruption and privilege — “princeling”.
The term refers to the offspring of Chinese party officials, and is often used to describe those who leverage their family connections into political power.
However, there are signs that these princelings could soon be replaced — by a new, female generation of “princesslings”.
State news agency Xinhua recently released a number of in-depth profiles of high ranking Communist Party officials to celebrate China’s power transition, and observers have noted that a large number of these officials have female offspring.
Amongst those who have daughters are President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. Xi’s daughter, Xi Mingze, is said to be a student at Harvard University, where she reportedly studies under a pseudonym and is protected by bodyguards.
According to Chris Luo of the South China Morning Post, internet users have dubbed the female offspring “princesslings”, and some wonder if these princesslings could do a better job than their male counterparts.
“Daughters are generally well-behaved,” one Weibo user observed. Princelings do not have a reputation for being “well-behaved”.
Bo Xilai, one of the most famous of the group (his father was Bo Yibo, one of the Eight Elders of the Communist Party of China) became the centre of a murder scandal last year and was ousted from the party. Bo’s own son has also come under scrutiny for his lavish lifestyle. And it is widely acknowledged that many princeling’s have used their connections to gain lavish fortunes.
If this new generation of princesslings do come to hold power in China, it will be something of a change.
Just 23 per cent of Communist Party members are female, and of the 3,000 deputies in the National People’s Congress, 23.4 per cent are female. No woman has ever reached the top echelons of Chinese political culture, the Politburo Standing Committee.
But Luo writes that it’s just as likely that the “husbands of these privileged daughters [will] benefit from the political inheritance of their fathers-in-law”.
However, the rise of the princesslings does appear to be another sign of the growing power of women in Chinese life.
As we’ve reported before, reports about so-called “leftover women” in the country appear to be a symptom of official anxiety over the growing number of single Chinese men who will never find a wife (the “bare branches”) — a result of the one-child-policy induced gender gap.
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