When in China, banks like to hire the sons and daughters of government officials. The issue first surfaced earlier this summer when it became apparent that JPMorgan had recruited Tang Xiaoning, son of a former Chinese banking regulator. It then emerged that other banks had done much the same. Today, the New York Times reported that JPMorgan also paid $1.8m over two years to a consulting firm run by the daughter of former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.
The good news for Western banks who want to hire these princelings is that they don’t have to go all the way to China to do it. Gordon Chang, author of the Coming Collapse of China, says there are plenty of well-connected young Chinese to be found in the West. “A lot of Chinese children are at top Western universities. Wealthy Chinese – whether they’re princelings or not – will often send their children abroad. It’s partly to give the children an overseas education and partly to give themselves a bridge to get out of China if they need to,” he tells us.
Where are the children of top Chinese officials found? In the U.S., Chang points to the Ivy League universities. More specifically, the head of recruitment at an international investment bank says princelings tend to congregate at universities in north eastern U.S. states. “Japanese students tend to dominate the west coast universities and Chinese students have gone for the big brands on the east coast,” he says. Bo Guagua, son of sacked communist official Bo Xilai, studied a postgraduate degree at Harvard. Xi Mingze, daughter of Chinese president and communist party chief Xi Jinping, is said to be studying at Harvard currently. Hu Haiqing, daughter of former Chinese president Hu Jintao, gained an MBA from an unspecified U.S. university in the 1990s.
In the UK, it seems Chinese students are more broadly dispersed. “You can pretty much go to any university in the UK and you’ll find a lot of Chinese now,” says the head of recruitment. However, the princelings are attracted to the big brands. Bo Guagua famously studied at Oxford before he went to Harvard. It also seems fairly certain that the LSE – which has 775 undergraduate and 225 postgraduate Chinese students and 3,000 alumni working in China, including Yang Jiechi, the Chinese minister for current affairs – has its share of the Chinese elite. Notably, the LSE’s careers blog is currently promoting Asia-based internships at both Citi and Credit Suisse.
Needless to say, not every Chinese student in the West is the son or daughter of a government official. “A few of us are party leaders’ kids, but mostly we’re just from affluent families,” says one Chinese student who declined to be named. For Westerners, spotting princelings can be hard. Chang says the sons and daughters of senior officials often operate under pseudonyms (as was the case with Wen Jiabao’s daughter and with Hu Haiqing when she studied her MBA in the U.S.): “The Chinese students will know who they are, but Westerns have no hope of identifying the princelings among them,” Chang says.
The head of recruitment we spoke to says he deliberately avoids hiring the princelings or the children of rich Chinese who are educated in the West. “The best Chinese students are at universities in China,” he tells us. “Those in the West have a sense of entitlement and they don’t have to be the best and the brightest – their parents just need the money to pay for their education.”