By Ellen Huber
Image credit: @davidden.
Mao Zedong’s granddaughter, Kong Dongmei, ranks among China’s most wealthy according to an annual list published by Guangdong’s New Fortune magazine of the country’s top 500 richest citizens.
Kong is the granddaughter of the polarizing founder of the People’s Republic of China and his third wife, He Zizhen. Kong isn’t the only breadwinner in the family however. Her husband Chen Dongsheng is the founder of both Guardian, China’s first national auction house, and Taikiang, China’s fourth largest insurance house. Together, the couple are worth five billion yuan ($814 million).
But even with such great personal wealth, Kong and Chen barely crack the richest half of the top 500 list coming in at #242.
Kong’s embrace of state capitalism isn’t shared by all of Mao’s living relatives however. Mao Xinyu, Kong’s half-brother and the Chairman’s only known grandson who serves as a major general in the People’s Liberation Army, once said, “The House of Mao will never engage in business.” It is speculated that Mao Xinyu doesn’t want to appear exploitative of his powerful surname.
Mao Xinyu made his famed comment amid the downfall of shamed Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai, who is the son of another founding father, Bo Yibo, of the People’s Republic. Given the context, it makes sense Mao Xinyu has rejected use of his grandfather’s name in the name of personal advancement.
However, both Mao Xinjyu and his half-sister Kong have written (and reaped the benefits) of writing books capitalizing on their famous grandfather, both titled ‘My Grandpa Mao’. Mao Xinyu’s grandmother, Yang Kaihui, was Mao’s second wife.
But I’m sure you’re more curious about who topped the list? Zong Qinghou, who came from much humbler beginnings than both Kong and Mao Xinyu, first worked as a salt harvester in Zhejiang province.
Today, Zong is worth 70 billion yuan after co-founding the Wahaha beverages group, and is able to snub dignitaries such as the Queen of United Kingdom and David Cameron at will.
When it comes to wealth in China, a famous surname may get you in the door if you choose to use it like Kong, but it certainly won’t make you the richest man or woman in the country [Ed.: just richer than 99.99% of the rest of the population].