(Corrects spelling of name in 9th paragraph to Victor Li (not
By John Ruwitch
SHANGHAI, March 2 The fortunes of the richest
100 members of China's parliament and its advisory body - all
dollar billionaires - grew about 64 percent in the four years
since Xi Jinping rose to power, according to data from an
organisation tracking wealth in China.
Xi has overseen a crackdown on corruption and decadence, and
made the fight against poverty a top priority after becoming
president in 2013.
Since then, however, the wealth of the upper crust in the
National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's
Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), tracked by the
Shanghai-based Hurun Report, has grown faster than the wider
economy, the stock market, home prices and wages.
The NPC and CPPCC start their annual sessions in Beijing on
Friday. While their membership cuts across society, this year
209 delegates - about 4 percent of the total - have been
identified by Hurun as each being worth 2 billion yuan ($290.7
million) or more.
Their combined wealth is close to the GDP of Belgium,
totaling nearly 3.5 trillion yuan, or more than $507 billion.
And over half of them are dollar billionaires. According to
Hurun's estimates, the top 100 are worth a combined 3 trillion
yuan this year, up 64 percent from 1.84 trillion yuan in 2013.
That represents an average annual increase in their wealth
of 13 percent over the four year period from 2013-2016, compared
with economic growth averaging 7.2 percent, an average rise of 7
percent in the CSI300 stock index, and an average 5 percent
increase in home prices over the same period.
Wage data is less up to date, but for the three years from
2013 to 2015 annual wage growth roughly averaged 9 percent.
All of the super-rich in parliament or its advisory body are
in business, rather than career bureaucrats. Among them are Hong
Kong businessman Victor Li, Pony Ma of tech giant Tencent
Holdings Ltd, and Robin Li of Baidu Inc.
Rupert Hoogewerf, founder and publisher of Hurun Report,
notes that the companies represented by the wealthy lawmakers
have had a big impact in terms of taxes and employment.
"Having these stakeholders as advisers to the government I
can understand makes a lot of sense," he said.
While all Chinese over the age of 18 are technically allowed
to vote for delegates and stand for election to the NPC, most
delegates are hand-picked by local level officials.
The presence of rich businessmen in parliament and its
advisory panel is a calculated move by the ruling Communist
Party, said Rory Truex, an assistant professor at Princeton.
"By giving the extremely wealthy a position in parliament
that kind of helps ensure their loyalty and it gives them a
vested interest in the success of the party," he said.
The entrepreneurs benefit, too, according to Truex, who
published a paper in 2014 showing businesses that had a CEO in
11th NPC (2008-2012) enjoyed a "reputation boost" that increased
operating profits by 3-4 percent. He has not analysed data for
the current session of parliament.
Victor Shih, a scholar of elite Chinese politics at the
University of California San Diego, said businessmen valued
seats at local and national levels because "it affords them a
certain degree of political protection".
(Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)