Dynasty is left exposed to resentment

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The Independent Online
While the emperor lived, his offspring made the most of the opportunities on offer to China's first family, whether it was by securing attractive business opportunities, signing lucrative book deals, or selling artwork to collectors. Those who sought out the patriarch's children must have assumed that a Deng business partner or the purchase of an expensive painting by a Deng daughter might open up other channels of useful communication.

Now that Deng Xiaoping is dead, his five children will have to tread more carefully if they are to hang on to their privileges. Resentment among ordinary Chinese runs strong against such "princelings", the children of China's top communist party leadership.

Politically they are also vulnerable; China's current leaders are unlikely explicitly to target the former patriarch's children in the short term, but will demand that they fall into line behind the current leadership strategy for a smooth transition. After today's memorial service, the Deng family may find it prudent to adopt a considerably lower profile now that their main claim to influence is gone.

In the closing years of Mr Deng's life, it was his children and his wife, Zhuo Lin, who, if not powers behind the throne, did control who crossed the threshold of the antechamber. For most of the Nineties, his favourite daughter, Deng Rong, worked as his private secretary and "imperial lip- reader", accompanying him in public in order to translate his heavy Sichuan accent into standard Chinese and to bellow the comments of others into his less-deaf ear.

When she wrote a hagiography of her father, the foreign publishing rights were snapped up by none other than Rupert Murdoch - for a reported $1m. Property deals in Shenzhen were another sideline.

In some instances, members of the former patriarch's family have found themselves uncomfortably close to scandal, though never directly implicated. The husband of Deng Rong is He Ping, who was in an embarrassing position last year when a subsidiary of the China Poly group, where he held a senior position, was linked to a Chinese AK-47 smuggling operation into the United States.

One of Deng's sons, Deng Zhifang, stepped down in 1995 from a senior position at a Hong Kong listed subsidiary of the mainland state steel giant, Shougang Corp, after an associate, Zhou Beifang, who was head of another Hong Kong Shougang company, was arrested on corruption charges and subsequently given a suspended death sentence. Deng Zhifang also has a number of property development interests.

The eldest son, Deng Pufang, who has been in a wheelchair since jumping out of a window during the Cultural Revolution when persecuted by Red Guards, saw his Kang Hua investment company closed in the Eighties on allegations of irregular business activities. Since then he has gained more respect by devoting his time to working for China's disabled.

Deng Lin, the rather jovial artistic eldest daughter, shunned politics and business in favour of painting, and her works have enjoyed considerable popularity, as well as healthy prices. In Hong Kong in 1993, she exhibited a series of large carpet-tapestries which were priced at up to pounds 30,000.

"Deng Lin bear the benefits and burdens of her father's power," said the catalogue. She wanted to be judged "without prejudice". Her husband, Wu Jianchang, found his marital connections no hindrance to building up a small business empire in Hong Kong, heading three quoted subsidiaries of the state China National Non-Ferrous Metals Industry Corporation.

The most overtly political of Mr Deng's children is Deng Nan, a physicist who is vice-minister of the Science and Technology Commission. Her political influence behind the scenes is difficult to gauge, but she was rumoured to have persuaded her father to make his southern tour in 1992, the event which sparked China's recent economic boom.