Dynasty of the patriarch finds it politic to tread more humbly
Tuesday 25 February 1997
Now Deng is dead, his five children will have to tread more carefully if they are to keep their privileges. Resentment among ordinary Chinese runs strongly against such "princelings". The current leaders are unlikely explicitly to target the 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 lower profile now their main claim to influence is gone.
In the closing years of Deng's life his children and his wife, Zhuo Lin, controlled who crossed the threshold of the antechamber. His favourite daughter, Deng Rong, was his secretary, accompanying 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 Rupert Murdoch, for a reported $1m. Property deals in Shenzhen were another sideline.
In some instances, family members found themselves close to scandal, though never directly implicated. Deng Rong's husband, He Ping, was in an embarrassing position last year when a subsidiary of the China Poly firm, where he held a top post, was linked to an operation smuggling Chinese AK-47s into the US.
One of Deng's sons, Deng Zhifang, stepped down in 1995 from a 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.
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.
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.
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