Since becoming president of China in 2013, Xi Jinping has tasked himself with overhauling the Communist Party, rooting out embezzlers and adulterers from positions of power. Now Xi hopes to use some of the strategies he used as part of the crackdown, which began by reining in outward signs of wealth and extravagance, on the sons and daughters of China’s privately wealthy.
According to the government’s United Front Work Department, a state bureau that is part of the Communist Party’s Central Committee and handles relations with non-Party elite, Xi wants to step up guidance for China’s superrich kids and young entrepreneurs in an attempt to change their public image of bratty, spoiled people.
The South China Morning Post reports that the department was asked to “guide private-sector businessmen, especially the younger generation, to help them think about the source of their wealth and how to behave after becoming affluent.”
“Some rich young people know only that they are rich, but have no idea where the money comes from,” the government department said. But the reason for the policy may not be moral so much as practical: “They know only how to show off their wealth, but don’t know how to create wealth. If this behavior becomes a common problem for family-run businesses and makes all private entrepreneurs look bad, or affects social confidence towards private businesses, it will no longer be simply an economic problem.”
Xi’s issues with the generation of young scions have a precedent.
The rise of the demographic of wealthy Chinese has given rise to a class problem that has been brewing in recent years. Nicknamed fuerdai, which translates to “wealthy second generation,” these young people have been negatively stereotyped by the Chinese public. One of the earlier instances of bad fuerdai public relations dates to 2010, when 22-year-old Li Qiming was driving while drunk and speeding in Baoding, a city in Hebei province, when he hit and killed a girl from a nearby college. Li fled the scene, but when he was later apprehended by police, he shouted, “Go ahead, sue me if you dare! My dad is Li Gang!” His father was a local director at the public security bureau. The story of Li Qiming, drunk with privilege, later went viral in China.
Other cases don't involve such grave matters but rather, crassness or bad taste, according to the Communist Party. In 2013, the Shanghai Daily reported on a salacious case of sex- and drug-fueled parties attended by China’s richest young people. Photos of a party that were leaked online implicated dozens of young Chinese models and sons and daughters of wealthy people. Partygoers also reportedly exchanged snapshots of their bank accounts, which were unverified but featured amounts upward of 3.7 billion yuan ($600 million).
“I’m not surprised hearing something like this,” one commenter on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo said at the time, according to Shanghai-based news blog Shanghaiist. “But it is really quite disgusting for a bunch of rich, bored fuerdai to show off their fancy lives like this.”