Before the communists’ revolutionary forces had even taken over China, the Communist Party, in its mountain base of Yan’an, had seen to it that some people were more equal than others: senior officials were given better food, uniforms, and living quarters than regular Party members, and they had special access to the young women there.
The idealistic Party member Wang Shiwei saw all this and wrote a furious essay on the matter called “Wild Lilies.” He was decapitated.
Such inequalities have persisted throughout Party rule, and most recently have been laid bare in articles in the Chinese and Hong Kong press, portraying a system of enormous privilege for retired Party leaders.
“Every retired Chinese Communist Party Standing Committee member enjoys privileged treatment, including six security guards, two drivers, two personal staff, two secretaries, one cook, one doctor, and one nurse,” says a document from the Bureau of Retired Veteran Cadres, cited by the Hong Kong political magazine Mingjing, in recent reports.
The Standing Committee is the highest level of leadership and power in the regime. A few levels lower than that elite committee, retired members are still treated well upon retirement. Members of the Central Committee, the vice chairmen of the National People’s Congress, State Councilors, and members of the Central Military Commission also receive a staff, though not quite as expansive: they get two security guards, one driver, two cars, two personal staff, along with a cook and a doctor.
If they ever need to fly, retired leaders have the use of a special plane from Air China, or a military plain, or one of three trains that are reserved for their use, Mingjing says in its Sept. 29 article.
Should these men ever get sick, their medical coverage is always paid for. Medication and medical devices used on them are imported, while three hospitals, in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, have six teams of medical experts on call for retired leaders.
The Trend, another political magazine based in Hong Kong, says that expenses for retired Politburo members, from which the Standing Committee is drawn, can run from $100,000 to $4.5 million per year.
Housing for these old cadres is also well provided. Former Party leader Jiang Zemin had a palatial villa constructed for his personal use in Shanghai, according to former member of the CCP Central Committee, Li Rui. Li made the accusation in the pro-reform intellectual journal Yanhuang Chunqiu, which means “Annals of the Yellow Emperor” in English. The magazine has elite supporters in the Party. That article was deleted, since the topic is still extremely sensitive in the Party, but Li Rui affirmed what he wrote in Yanhuang Chunqiu on Mingjing’s website.
During a forum discussing political reform hosted by Yanhuang Chunqiu last year, Li Rui proposed abolish the system of special treatments for retired leaders, bringing up Jiang’s mansion as an example. “Jiang Zemin went to his teacher and told him that since Deng Xiaoping has a villa in Shanghai, he wants to build one too,” Li said. “His teacher criticized him, but he still built a villa. I heard it’s very luxurious.”
The Communist Party’s own guidelines offer evidence that the system for looking after retired cadres is well established. A 1982 decision, published on the website of the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Party, says that: “After veteran cadres retire, their basic political treatment will not change, and their lifestyles should receive preferential treatment… This is a policy principle from which the Party and the country should never swerve.”
Internet users compared the system to vampirism. Duxing1968 wrote on Sina Weibo: “I’ve been annoyed by retired cadres’ special treatment for a long time. Before their retirement, they abused their power for personal gain; after their retirement, they are still supported by the people’s money, sucking people’s blood until they die. What kind of system is that? Don’t talk about serving the people. That’s nonsense. The big and small officials are all vampires!”
He added, in seriousness: “I have to say, the special treatment (especially the ones not published) for all levels of officials and retired officials are the biggest obstacle to China’s reform!”