Many Chinese people believe wealth in China flows directly from political connections. Judging by the fortunes of the richest members of the country’s ersatz parliament, they appear to be right.
According to Financial Times calculations, the richest members of the upper and lower houses of China’s parliament saw their average wealth increase more than four times over the past eight years, compared with a rise of under three times for the 1,000 wealthiest people identified in the country.
The annual meeting of the National People’s Congress, the lawmaking body that opens today and lasts for just over a week, includes 86 renminbi billionaires on the Hurun China Rich List, the annual ranking of the country’s wealthy.
The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which opened on Monday, is the country’s main political advisory body and includes 69 billionaires from the Hurun list.
The average wealth of the 56 billionaires who have been in either political body for more than one five-year term increased by 316 per cent from 2006 until the end of last year.
Online polls have shown that ordinary Chinese citizens overwhelmingly believe the most important factor in amassing great wealth is to have powerful political connections.
Analysts and compilers of rich lists in China say the true number of billionaires, and the actual wealth of the more than 5,000 delegates meeting in Beijing this week, are probably much larger but official secrecy makes these hard to estimate.
The ruling Communist party has for decades pledged to force senior officials to declare their assets and their family members’, but this has been fiercely resisted at all levels of the party and never enforced.
In 2003, the party took the decision to allow capitalists to join its ranks and since then the number of wealthy people in the NPC and CPPCC has grown rapidly – along with their riches.
The 155 billionaire delegates at the meetings in Beijing are worth an average of Rmb9.7bn ($1.6bn), compared with an average of Rmb6.4bn held by the 1,000 people on the entire Hurun list, published by Shanghai-based Hurun Research Institute.
But the political appointees are more representative of the top 500 people on the Hurun list, whose average wealth is around Rmb9.8bn. “If they even get the chance to join the CPPCC or NPC then they must already be successful people,” said Zhao Hui, a popular Chinese columnist. “Once they are already successful this is a way for them to find political protection.”
The NPC is the country’s formal lawmaking body but the most senior Communist party members are in its ranks and at best it serves to fine-tune laws and policies decided beforehand.
The CPPCC is stacked with retired senior party officials and, as with the NPC, delegates are handpicked by the party. Its job is to “advise” the NPC and the ruling party.
中国最高立法机构全国人民代表大会(NPC)将于今天召开年度会议，会期将略长于一周。人大代表中包含86位进入《胡润中国百富榜》(Hurun China Rich List)的亿万富翁（以人民币计）。这份年度榜单由位于上海的胡润研究所(Hurun Research Institute)发布，共1000人上榜。
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