the plan for the future
March 12, 2012
Author: Ramy Inocencio
Taken from: CNN - Should China’s capital be renamed 'Bling-jing'?
Hong Kong, China (CNN) - If you look at China’s annual National People’s Congress, now in session, you might think this country is one of the richest in the world.
The NPC's 75 richest legislators - from a total of 3,000 - had a net worth of more than $90 billion in 2011. To put that in perspective, that’s more than half of Greece’s latest bailout of some $170 billion.
Zong Qinghou is the NPC’s richest member and China’s second-richest man, with a net worth of nearly $10.8 billion in cash and assets. If you’ve been to China, you’ve likely eaten or drunk something his company, Wahaha Group, manufactures.
The firm’s red-and-white distilled water bottles are ubiquitous - sold on the grounds of the Forbidden City in Beijing to the altitudes of the Chinese Himalayas in Tibet.
Along with food and drink, the five richest NPC legislators have shown that China’s automobile and real estate industries are the sectors in which to make billions.
For more perspective on their wealth, compare NPC’s six dozen richest members to U.S. politicians. This group earned more than the net worth of the six hundred top politicians and lawmakers of the United States.
That includes President Barack Obama, his Cabinet, the 535 members of Congress, along with nine members of the Supreme Court. Their average declared net worth in 2010 was just $4.8 billion - a pittance compared to the NPC’s $90 billion.
Even the richest person in the U.S. Congress looks a modest earner compared with the NPC's wealth. Representative Darrell Issa of California has a maximum net worth estimated at $700 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. If he were in China’s NPC, his ranking would fall forty notches.
The NPC is not the only major political meet-up happening in Beijing right now. The CPPCC - the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference - is also in full swing. The 70-odd richest legislators in this government advisory body, similar to the NPC, had a net worth of more than $100 billion in 2011.
And they’re apparently not afraid to flaunt the bling they can buy with those riches.
One legislator from an ethnic minority, often poorer than their Han Chinese counterparts, clutched an $800 Burberry handbag on the way to a CPPCC meeting this week. The Chairman of Evergrande, one of China’s biggest property companies, sported a $950 black Hermes belt - with a golden H. And another lady legislator cradled a Marc Jacobs bag on the way to this week’s work. Retail price? $10,000.
The annual per capita income for a Chinese citizen stands at about $2,400.
With images like those - which have gone viral on the web - many critics are wondering just how representative the "people’s" congress is of the people.
The answer? Perhaps not so much.