Last week's huge New York Times article about Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and his family's wealth has prompted a bitter backlash from China, just like Bloomberg's big article about future President Xi Jinping did before it.
But are Wen and Xi really big outliers for the Chinese leadership? Perhaps not.
In an article for The Diplomat, Elizabeth C. Economy from the Council on Foreign Relations notes an incredible statistic:
Compounding the problem for the Chinese leadership, the annual 2011 Hurun report on the wealthiest Chinese reveals that the top seventy members of the National People’s Congress are worth a combined total of $89.8 billion; in contrast, the net worth of the top 660 U.S. officials is only $7.5 billion.
Why is the NPC so rich? When Bloomberg wrote about the Hurun report earlier this year, one example they found was because of security:
“The rich in China have strong incentive to become ‘within system’ due to the relative weakness in the rule of law and of property rights,” Victor Shih, a professor at Evanston, Illinois-based Northwestern University who studies Chinese politics and finance, wrote in an e-mail. Being a member of the NPC “means that one’s commercial or political rival cannot easily throw one in jail or confiscate one’s property.”
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- Council on Foreign Relations