Number of Billionaires in Chinese Parliament on the Rise


The ranks of ultra-rich individuals in China’s legislature increased 17 percent from last year, highlighting the cozy relationship between the wealthy and the ruling Communist party.

Among the delegates gathered in Beijing this week to attend the National People’s Congress, 83 of them are U.S. dollar billionaires, said Shanghai-based research firm Hurun.

In its report, Hurun identified 31 billionaires in the NPC, often described as a rubberstamp parliament, and another 52 billionaire delegates at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a toothless advisory body that meets at the same time as the NPC for about two weeks each year in early March.

At nearly 3000 delegates, the NPC is the biggest legislative assembly in the world while the CPPCC boasts around 2,200 members.

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The average fortune among the 83 wealthiest NPC and CPPCC delegates is $3.35 billion, according to the Hurun report, compared with the average annual wage for Chinese urban workers of less than $7,000.

In comparison, each of the 83 richest members of the U.S. Congress has an average of $56.4 million, based on data provided by the nonpartisan Centre for Responsive Politics.

But Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher for the Hurun report, estimates that for every Chinese billionaire the firm discovers, there is another one it misses, meaning the gap between the wealth of China’s NPC and the U.S. Congress may be greater still.

Kenneth Lieberthal, director of the John L. Thornton China Center at Washington’s Brookings Institution, said:

It is extraordinary to see this degree of a marriage of wealth and politics. It certainly lends vivid texture to the widespread complaints in China about an extreme inequality of wealth in the country now.

In China’s authoritarian but nominally egalitarian system, the growing presence of wealthy people in the legislature coincides with efforts by incoming President Xi Jinping to stem corruption and ostentatious displays of luxury by officials as he seeks to address concerns that the Communist Party no longer represents the interests of ordinary Chinese people. 

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Xi’s task may become more difficult as the rich move to cement their gains through legislation, said Yang Fengchun, an associate professor of government and management at Peking University.

“The National People’s Congress has a lot of rich businesspeople who have the knowledge and the means to make laws, and that’s a privilege the rest of society doesn’t have,” Yang said. “The common people believe that they can’t protect the rights of the weak.”

Feng Xingyuan, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a leading government think-tank, said:

Our government is a totalitarian one with an axe hanging over everybody’s head and the decision over whose head it will fall on lies with officials. When businesspeople amass a fortune they need to protect it – so they either find an agent to [do so] or they become an official themselves.