Chairman Mao’s granddaughter Kong Dongmei made China's richest 500 people list published by New Fortune Magazine recently -- her joint worth with her husband is estimated to be around five billion yuan ($814 million), according to Shanghaiist. The irony, considering Mao’s Marxist belief, is not lost on Chinese netizens.
Kong is the daughter of China’s founding leader’s daughter with his third wife, He Zizhen. New Fortune ranked Kong and her husband, the founder of China’s first national auction house and its fourth-largest insurance company, jointly at No. 242. Kong, dubbed “Red Princess” by the media, alluding to Mao’s status as the Chinese Communist Party’s founding leader, owns a bookstore in Beijing’s 798 art district, and has written several widely publicized books on the Mao family.
As soon as news of Kong’s place on the rich list got out, media rushed to make comparisons with the chairman’s other grandchild – Mao Xinyu, who is Mao’s grandson from his second wife. The younger Mao, a major general in the People’s Liberation Army, spoke famously that “the house of Mao will never engage in business.” Even so, the major general has written a book about his grandfather, much like Kong did.
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Netizens have split into two camps: those loyal to Mao’s legacy, dubbed “Mao fans,” pointed out that Kong married rich, instead of making a fortune herself. Some even argued that since Kong is descended from Mao’s daughter, not son, she does not count as a Mao in the traditional Chinese sense, which only considers the male line. Many rushed to her defense.
“The year before last, I saw the Mao family for the first time,” a VIP user on Weibo, 广州_老杨 said. “They are low-key, personable, kind, and their integrity left a deep impression on me. Congratulations, Kong Dongmei!”
However, most criticized her and her family, even digging into her personal history. It turns out, Kong was her current husband, Chen Dongsheng’s mistress, beginning in 1999, when Kong joined the insurance company the already-married Chen founded. When the affair came to light, Kong left for school in the United States. When she went back to China, Kong and Chen resumed living together, and have three children to date, breaking China’s one-child policy. It was not until 2011 that the two officially married. The marriage took place in Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, usually reserved for state functions only.
The controversy has gone beyond discussions about Kong or the Mao family, to personal attacks on their different beliefs.
“Do Mao fans feel betrayed by Kong Dongmei’s wealth?” VIP blogger 陈季冰,deputy editor in chief of Shanghai Business Times, wrote. “From my understanding of their IQ, I guess they wouldn’t be. Their first reaction is, this is false! ... I think, Mao fans, can qualify as a new psychological condition.”