Jeremy Page’s article for the Wall Street Journal, “Children of the Revolution,” explores the emergent privileged class in China and the social tensions this brings forward in a nation with an average annual income of $3,300. The ‘little kings’ and privileged youth that are the children of the Cultural Revolution generation display a taste for excess and material wealth well beyond the revolutionary scope under which their forebears once endeavored. Their spending is conspicuous, as is their profligate behavior. Nominally, China is a socialist state, guided by the Communist Party of China. In reality, China is increasingly accelerating the gap between its rich and its poor while selling this to the world as progress and advancement. To quote Cheng Li, an expert on Chinese politics at the Brookings Institution:
“There’s no ambiguity—the trend has become so clear. Princelings were never popular, but now they’ve become so politically powerful, there’s some serious concern about the legitimacy of the ‘Red Nobility.’ The Chinese public is particularly resentful about the princelings’ control of both political power and economic wealth.”
The rise of a privileged ruling class, akin to the Yangban aristocracy of ancient Korea, spells disaster for China’s Communist Party. While touted as an example of market success, China’s industries, strategic resources and lands are largely run by state-owned monopolies that are in turn controlled by the ‘little kings’ and their families. When the levers of power are controlled by a few to the exclusion of the many and social mobility becomes frozen then economic progress becomes increasingly difficult. Such may be the reality for the China of the future where the peasants revolution may have once again given way to a dynastic force.