The Diverse Commercial and Social Influence of Chinese Political Families

November 8, 2012 • Chris

We recently explored the business connections of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s family. This post serves as a follow up in which we use Recorded Future to identify family relations of 65 other Chinese political officials mentioned in the media and then explore any reported business connections for each of those family members.

Some of the relationships are controversial – foreign commercial operations full of legal issues and manipulation of the rare earth metals industry – while others are not as immediately exciting – academics and environmental advocates – but the diversity and scope of influence is notable.

Network of Chinese Political Family Business Connections

Below is the group of family relations identified using Recorded Future, and it makes up the set of people that we examined for any commercial or organizational connections of note.

Politician Family Relation Relationship
Hu Jintao Hu Haifeng son
Hu Jintao Liu Yongqing wife
Hu Jintao Mao Daolin son-in-law
Xi Jinping Peng Liyuan wife
Xi Jinping Qi Qiaoqiao sister
Xi Jinping Xi Qianping sister
Xi Jinping Xi Yuanping brother
Xi Jinping Deng Jiagui brother-in-law
Xi Jinping Wu Long brother-in-law
Xi Jinping Hiu Ng niece
Li Keqiang Li Fengsan father
Li Keqiang Li Keming brother
Li Keqiang Cheng Hong wife
Yang Jiechi Madam Le Aimei wife
Yang Jiechi Yang Jiemian brother
Zhang Yesui Chen Naiqing wife
Ma Wen Yu Zhenqi husband
Chen Zhu Chen Shuaijun wife
Wang Qishan Yao Yilin father-in-law
Huang Hua Huang Bin son
Chen Yun Sabrina Chen granddaughter

And now we can get into the good stuff. What are some of the findings from the above network?

The President’s Son Hu Haifeng and Nuctech

Hu Haifeng is the former president of Nuctech Co., which sells radioactivity monitors, x-ray equipment, and other monitoring devices to airports. In 2008 he was promoted to head Tsinghua Holdings, which controls Nuctech among other companies.

Nuctech is rife with legal trouble particularly for its dealings in Africa. It was the subject of a Namibian government corruption probe in 2009, was the subject of trade tariffs in the EU during 2010 for its essential monopoly on the market in China, and was the center of a conspiracy in the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) that purchased eight scanners from Nuctech despite the company’s disqualification from bidding.

Interestingly, Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu visited Zambia ten months before the controversial deal calling for further cooperation with Zambia while meeting with Zambian Vice President George Kunda.

The Web, Electronics, and Rare Earth Metals

Sina Corporation, which operates online communities such as Sina Weibo, was formerly run by Mao Daolin, who is the son-in-law of Chinese President Hu Jintao. Mao was the CEO of Sina from 2001 to 2005 and remains a close friend of current CEO Charles Chao. The services operated by Sina have come under international fire for bowing to political pressures in subduing sensitive, government threatening conversation such as coverage of the Egyptian protests in early 2011 and discussion of Chinese coup rumors in early 2012.

So far, we’ve focused exclusively on connections with Hu Jintao, but formidable connections trickle down the line of political power. Earlier this year, Bloomberg published an excellent piece on Vice President Xi Jinping’s family wealth (details below primarily come from that research or commentary on the findings).

In focus are Qi Qiaoqiao (Xi Jinping’s sister), whose daughter reportedly made a 3.17 million-yuan investment in Hiconics in the three years before the Beijing-based manufacturer of electronic devices sold shares to the public in 2010, and her husband Deng Jiagui (and Xi’s brother-in-law). Deng reportedly “held an indirect 18% stake in a rare earth firm Jiangxi Rare Earth & Rare Metals Tungsten Group Corp.” with $1.7bn (£1.1bn) in assets, while the couple held stake in Shenzhen Yuanwei Investment Company and the Yuanwei group. What’s been happening recently with rare earth metals in China? The shutdown of certain manufacturers (not ones owned by Deng), to throttle production in an effort to boost sagging prices.

Health and Anti-Health

Peng Liyuan, wife of Vice-President Xi Jinping, is a singer and celebrity as well as China’s anti-smoking ambassador who shared the stage with Bill Gates at an anti-smoking campaign ahead of the 25th World No-Tobacco Day in Beijing.

In the completely opposite direction, Li Keming (brother of Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang who oversees public health) has a less health conscious day job; he is deputy director at China’s state-owned tobacco company State Tobacco Monopoly Administration.

Academics and the Environment

Among the family ties there are a pair of academics: Dr. Yang Jiemian (brother of Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi) is the President of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS), a think tank advising the Chinese and Shanghai governments, and Cheng Hong (wife of Li Keqiang the First ranked Vice-Premier) is a professor at Capital University of Economics and Business in Beijing.

Xi Yuanping (Xi Jinping’s brother), is the founding chairman of an energy advisory body called the International Energy Conservation Environmental Protection that has worked with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) to sponsor the International Carbon-value Innovative Value Award. Hiu Ng (Xi Jinping’s niece) has been involved in the Bioneers conference and is a co-founder of Fairklima Capital in China focused on sustainable business.

Final Thoughts

There’s almost certainly lots behind the curtain that hasn’t been uncovered. This seems particularly clear given the relatively little coverage of these individuals except for blockbuster reports like those from Bloomberg and the New York Times. That said, this examination of the existing media coverage allows us to piece together the breadth of political relationships across many aspects of Chinese commerce and communications.

Leave your thoughts in the comments below and let us know if there are other social networks that you think would be interesting to examine!