Crown Prince Party
Simplified Chinese zh-Hans: 太子党
Traditional Chinese zh-Hant: 太子黨

In modern usage, the Crown Prince Party, or The Princelings, refers to the descendants of prominent and influential senior communist officials in the People's Republic of China. It is not a political party, but an informal, and often derogatory, categorization to signify those benefiting from nepotism and cronyism, by analogy with Crown Princes in hereditary monarchies. Many of its members now hold high-level political and business positions in the upper echelons of power. However, there is currently no discernible political cohesion within the group, and as such they should not be compared to other informal groupings such as the Shanghai clique or the Tsinghua clique, which resemble inner-party factions.

The term was coined in the early 20th century, referring to the son of Yuan Shikai (a self-declared Emperor) and his cronies. It was later used to describe the relatives of the top four nationalist families; Chiang Kai-shek's kin, Soong May-ling's kin, Chen Lifu's kin, and Kong Xiangxi's kin. After the 1950s, the term was used to describe Chiang Ching-kuo, son of Chiang Kai-shek, and his friends in Taiwan. Today's Princelings include the children of the Eight Elders and other recent senior national and provincial leaders.


The latest "crown princes" are in mainland China. Many senior leaders often lobby directly or indirectly for their descendants and relatives to succeed them. Although some manage to keep a low profile, many of them are perceived to be arrogant and undeserving of the fortune or the prominence they hold. By utilizing their parents' privileges, they often place themselves above the law and foster the contagion of corruption. Some of these crown princes hold senior positions at the vice-ministerial level or above in their thirties, for which other ordinary cadres would struggle for decades. Others run companies involved in large scale corruption and smuggling schemes. All of these misdeeds raise widespread sentiments of resentment and jealousy, and some "crown princes" have fallen victim to the trend towards enmity that is apparent in China. Most political observers see the Crown Prince Party as having been at the pinnacle of their power in the 1980s and to have had their power reduced after 1989 for a number of reasons:

First, not only did the Crown Prince Party cause some resentment among the general public, but they also caused resentment within the vast major of Party members who did not have a powerful relative; for example, Chen Yuan, son of Chen Yun; and Chen Haosu, son of Chen Yi lost their election in Beijing and had to be transferred to other positions.

Second, the booming Chinese economy caused a new wealthy class to emerge, many of whom demanded fair play and protection of their property.

Third, as the public was unsatisfied with the plague of corruption and cronyism, with resentment and discontent mounting to a degree that could wreak havoc on the CCP's reign, the CCP had to take some measures to appease these strong feelings.

One watershed event occurred during the 15th National Congress of the CCP in 1997. Some prominent figures of the Crown Prince Party suffered great losses as candidates. Xi Jinping, son of Xi Zhongxun, and Deng Pufang, eldest son of Deng Xiaoping, were narrowly elected as alternate members of the Central Commission of the CCP, but were listed on the tail end, due to the low number of votes received. Bo Xilai, son of Bo Yibo, was unable to get elected as an alternate member. Interestingly, both Xi and Bo have emerged as major figures in China's next generation of leadership. Indeed, Xi is widely considered to have been tapped to succeed Hu Jintao as General Secretary of the CPC and President of the PRC at the 18th Party Congress in 2012.

It is speculated that when Jiang Zemin was close to the end of his term for his age, he put many members of the Crown Prince Party into important positions to appeal to senior leaders of the CCP and win their support for his continued influence. There is a trend towards members of the Crown Prince Party taking over power step by step. Of these, Yu Zhengsheng, son of Huang Jing (黄敬), former mayor of Tianjin, was already a member of the powerful politburo of the CCP; Wang Qishan (王歧山 in Chinese), son in law of Yao Yilin (姚依林, former vice premier and member of politburo), mayor of Beijing; Xi Jinping, Bo Xilai, Zhou Xiaochuan, son of Zhou Jiannan (周建南, former minister of First Machinery Ministry and Jiang Zemin’s boss), governor of the People's Bank of China, have also occupied important positions since the 17th Party Congress.

In 2013 a "sons and daughters" program instituted by JPMorgan Chase to hire young princelings for positions in its Chinese operations came to light during a bribery investigation by the SEC. At times standards for hiring young princelings were more lenient than those imposed on other Chinese.[1]


Bo Guagua, grandson of Bo Yibo, princeling at play.[2]

The following are some of the most famous crown princes:

A list of 226 crown princes has been published (see link below).


  1. Jessica Silver-Greenberg. "JPMorgan Hiring Put China’s Elite on an Easy Track" (Dealbook blog), August 29, 2013. Retrieved on August 30, 2013. 
  2. "Son’s Parties and Privilege Aggravate Fall of Elite Chinese Family" article by Andrew Jacobs and Dan Levin in The New York Times April 16, 2012
  3. Children of the Revolution, Jeremy Page, The Wall Street Journal, 26 November 2011.
  4. Lifting the lid on the secret life of Point Piper's grand princeling, John Garnaut, Sydney Morning Herald, 16 October 2010.
  5. A Home Fit for a Princeling, Dinny McMahon, The Wall Street Journal, 26 November 2011.

External links

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