I’ll be temporarily hosting the New York Times story on Wen Jiaboa’s family wealth on my website due to the NYT.com website being blocked in China now. The Chinese version of the story is on top, the English version is at the bottom.
DAVID BARBOZA 报道
总部设在瑞士的世界珠宝联合会(World Jewelry Confederation)的主席加埃塔诺·卡瓦列里(Gaetano
温云松毕业于北京的精英学校，并在北京理工大学(Beijing Institute of
University)凯洛格商学院(Kellogg School of Business)取得了工商管理硕士学位。
香港行业出版物《亚洲私募股权评论》(Asia Private Equity Review)的主编凯瑟琳·吴(Kathleen
哥伦比亚大学法学院(Columbia University Law School)教授克提斯·米尔哈特(Curtis
“这将影响他手中剩下的政治力量，” 研究中国领导层的专家、加州克莱蒙麦肯纳学院(Claremont McKenna
The mother of China’s prime minister was a schoolteacher in northern
China. His father was ordered to tend pigs in one of Mao’s political
campaigns. And during childhood, “my family was extremely poor,” the
prime minister, Wen Jiabao, said in a speech last year.
But now 90, the prime minister’s mother, Yang Zhiyun, not only left
poverty behind — she became outright rich, at least on paper,
according to corporate and regulatory records. Just one investment in
her name, in a large Chinese financial services company, had a value
of $120 million five years ago, the records show.
The details of how Ms. Yang, a widow, accumulated such wealth are not
known, or even if she was aware of the holdings in her name. But it
happened after her son was elevated to China’s ruling elite, first in
1998 as vice prime minister and then five years later as prime
Many relatives of Wen Jiabao, including his son, daughter, younger
brother and brother-in-law, have become extraordinarily wealthy during
his leadership, an investigation by The New York Times shows. A review
of corporate and regulatory records indicates that the prime
minister’s relatives, some of whom have a knack for aggressive
deal-making, including his wife, have controlled assets worth at least
In many cases, the names of the relatives have been hidden behind
layers of partnerships and investment vehicles involving friends, work
colleagues and business partners. Untangling their financial holdings
provides an unusually detailed look at how politically connected
people have profited from being at the intersection of government and
business as state influence and private wealth converge in China’s
Unlike most new businesses in China, the family’s ventures sometimes
received financial backing from state-owned companies, including China
Mobile, one of the country’s biggest phone operators, the documents
show. At other times, the ventures won support from some of Asia’s
richest tycoons. The Times found that Mr. Wen’s relatives accumulated
shares in banks, jewelers, tourist resorts, telecommunications
companies and infrastructure projects, sometimes by using offshore
The holdings include a villa development project in Beijing; a tire
factory in northern China; a company that helped build some of
Beijing’s Olympic stadiums, including the well-known “Bird’s Nest”;
and Ping An Insurance, one of the world’s biggest financial services
As prime minister in an economy that remains heavily state-driven, Mr.
Wen, who is best known for his simple ways and common touch, more
importantly has broad authority over the major industries where his
relatives have made their fortunes. Chinese companies cannot list
their shares on a stock exchange without approval from agencies
overseen by Mr. Wen, for example. He also has the power to influence
investments in strategic sectors like energy and telecommunications.
Because the Chinese government rarely makes its deliberations public,
it is not known what role — if any — Mr. Wen, who is 70, has played in
most policy or regulatory decisions. But in some cases, his relatives
have sought to profit from opportunities made possible by those
The prime minister’s younger brother, for example, has a company that
was awarded more than $30 million in government contracts and
subsidies to handle wastewater treatment and medical waste disposal
for some of China’s biggest cities, according to estimates based on
government records. The contracts were announced after Mr. Wen ordered
tougher regulations on medical waste disposal in 2003 after the SARS
In 2004, after the State Council, a government body Mr. Wen presides
over, exempted Ping An Insurance and other companies from rules that
limited their scope, Ping An went on to raise $1.8 billion in an
initial public offering of stock. Partnerships controlled by Mr. Wen’s
relatives — along with their friends and colleagues — made a fortune
by investing in the company before the public offering.
In 2007, the last year the stock holdings were disclosed in public
documents, those partnerships held as much as $2.2 billion worth of
Ping An stock, according to an accounting of the investments by The
Times that was verified by outside auditors. Ping An’s overall market
value is now nearly $60 billion.
Ping An said in a statement that the company did “not know the
background of the entities behind our shareholders.” The statement
said, “Ping An has no means to know the intentions behind shareholders
when they buy and sell our shares.”
While Communist Party regulations call for top officials to disclose
their wealth and that of their immediate family members, no law or
regulation prohibits relatives of even the most senior officials from
becoming deal-makers or major investors — a loophole that effectively
allows them to trade on their family name. Some Chinese argue that
permitting the families of Communist Party leaders to profit from the
country’s long economic boom has been important to ensuring elite
support for market-oriented reforms.
Even so, the business dealings of Mr. Wen’s relatives have sometimes
been hidden in ways that suggest the relatives are eager to avoid
public scrutiny, the records filed with Chinese regulatory authorities
show. Their ownership stakes are often veiled by an intricate web of
holdings as many as five steps removed from the operating companies,
according to the review.
In the case of Mr. Wen’s mother, The Times calculated her stake in
Ping An — valued at $120 million in 2007 — by examining public records
and government-issued identity cards, and by following the ownership
trail to three Chinese investment entities. The name recorded on his
mother’s shares was Taihong, a holding company registered in Tianjin,
the prime minister’s hometown.
The apparent efforts to conceal the wealth reflect the highly charged
politics surrounding the country’s ruling elite, many of whom are also
enormously wealthy but reluctant to draw attention to their riches.
When Bloomberg News reported in June that the extended family of Vice
President Xi Jinping, set to become China’s next president, had
amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in assets, the Chinese
government blocked access inside the country to the Bloomberg Web
“In the senior leadership, there’s no family that doesn’t have these
problems,” said a former government colleague of Wen Jiabao who has
known him for more than 20 years and who spoke on the condition of
anonymity. “His enemies are intentionally trying to smear him by
letting this leak out.”
The Times presented its findings to the Chinese government for
comment. The Foreign Ministry declined to respond to questions about
the investments, the prime minister or his relatives. Members of Mr.
Wen’s family also declined to comment or did not respond to requests
Duan Weihong, a wealthy businesswoman whose company, Taihong, was the
investment vehicle for the Ping An shares held by the prime minister’s
mother and other relatives, said the investments were actually her
own. Ms. Duan, who comes from the prime minister’s hometown and is a
close friend of his wife, said ownership of the shares was listed in
the names of Mr. Wen’s relatives in an effort to conceal the size of
Ms. Duan’s own holdings.
“When I invested in Ping An I didn’t want to be written about,” Ms.
Duan said, “so I had my relatives find some other people to hold these
shares for me.”
But it was an “accident,” she said, that her company chose the
relatives of the prime minister as the listed shareholders — a process
that required registering their official ID numbers and obtaining
their signatures. Until presented with the names of the investors by
The Times, she said, she had no idea that they had selected the
relatives of Wen Jiabao.
The review of the corporate and regulatory records, which covers 1992
to 2012, found no holdings in Mr. Wen’s name. And it was not possible
to determine from the documents whether he recused himself from any
decisions that might have affected his relatives’ holdings, or whether
they received preferential treatment on investments.
For much of his tenure, Wen Jiabao has been at the center of rumors
and conjecture about efforts by his relatives to profit from his
position. Yet until the review by The Times, there has been no
detailed accounting of the family’s riches.
His wife, Zhang Beili, is one of the country’s leading authorities on
jewelry and gemstones and is an accomplished businesswoman in her own
right. By managing state diamond companies that were later privatized,
The Times found, she helped her relatives parlay their minority stakes
into a billion-dollar portfolio of insurance, technology and real
The couple’s only son sold a technology company he started to the
family of Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, for $10 million, and
used another investment vehicle to establish New Horizon Capital, now
one of China’s biggest private equity firms, with partners like the
government of Singapore, according to records and interviews with
The prime minister’s younger brother, Wen Jiahong, controls $200
million in assets, including wastewater treatment plants and recycling
businesses, the records show.
As prime minister, Mr. Wen has staked out a position as a populist and
a reformer, someone whom the state-run media has nicknamed “the
People’s Premier” and “Grandpa Wen” because of his frequent outings to
meet ordinary people, especially in moments of crisis like natural
While it is unclear how much the prime minister knows about his
family’s wealth, State Department documents released by the WikiLeaks
organization in 2010 included a cable that suggested Mr. Wen was aware
of his relatives’ business dealings and unhappy about them.
“Wen is disgusted with his family’s activities, but is either unable
or unwilling to curtail them,” a Chinese-born executive working at an
American company in Shanghai told American diplomats, according to the
China’s ‘Diamond Queen’
It is no secret in China’s elite circles that the prime minister’s
wife, Zhang Beili, is rich, and that she has helped control the
nation’s jewelry and gem trade. But her lucrative diamond businesses
became an off-the-charts success only as her husband moved into the
country’s top leadership ranks, the review of corporate and regulatory
records by The Times found.
A geologist with an expertise in gemstones, Ms. Zhang is largely
unknown among ordinary Chinese. She rarely travels with the prime
minister or appears with him, and there are few official photographs
of the couple together. And while people who have worked with her say
she has a taste for jade and fine diamonds, they say she usually
dresses modestly, does not exude glamour and prefers to wield
influence behind the scenes, much like the relatives of other senior
The State Department documents released by WikiLeaks included a
suggestion that Mr. Wen had once considered divorcing Ms. Zhang
because she had exploited their relationship in her diamond trades.
Taiwanese television reported in 2007 that Ms. Zhang had bought a pair
of jade earrings worth about $275,000 at a Beijing trade show, though
the source — a Taiwanese trader — later backed off the claim and
Chinese government censors moved swiftly to block coverage of the
subject in China, according to news reports at the time.
“Her business activities are known to everyone in the leadership,”
said one banker who worked with relatives of Wen Jiabao. The banker
said it was not unusual for her office to call upon businesspeople.
“And if you get that call, how can you say no?”
Zhang Beili first gained influence in the 1990s, while working as a
regulator at the Ministry of Geology. At the time, China’s jewelry
market was still in its infancy.
While her husband was serving in China’s main leadership compound,
known as Zhongnanhai, Ms. Zhang was setting industry standards in the
jewelry and gem trade. She helped create the National Gemstone Testing
Center in Beijing, and the Shanghai Diamond Exchange, two of the
industry’s most powerful institutions.
In a country where the state has long dominated the marketplace,
jewelry regulators often decided which companies could set up
diamond-processing factories, and which would gain entry to the retail
jewelry market. State regulators even formulated rules that required
diamond sellers to buy certificates of authenticity for any diamond
sold in China, from the government-run testing center in Beijing,
which Ms. Zhang managed.
As a result, when executives from Cartier or De Beers visited China
with hopes of selling diamonds and jewelry here, they often went to
visit Ms. Zhang, who became known as China’s “diamond queen.”
“She’s the most important person there,” said Gaetano Cavalieri,
president of the World Jewelry Confederation in Switzerland. “She was
bridging relations between partners — Chinese and foreign partners.”
As early as 1992, people who worked with Ms. Zhang said, she had begun
to blur the line between government official and businesswoman. As
head of the state-owned China Mineral and Gem Corporation, she began
investing the state company’s money in start-ups. And by the time her
husband was named vice premier, in 1998, she was busy setting up
business ventures with friends and relatives.
The state company she ran invested in a group of affiliated diamond
companies, according to public records. Many of them were run by Ms.
Zhang’s relatives — or colleagues who had worked with her at the
National Gemstone Testing Center.
In 1993, for instance, the state company Ms. Zhang ran helped found
Beijing Diamond, a big jewelry retailer. A year later, one of her
younger brothers, Zhang Jianming, and two of her government colleagues
personally acquired 80 percent of the company, according to
shareholder registers. Beijing Diamond invested in Shenzhen Diamond,
which was controlled by her brother-in-law, Wen Jiahong, the prime
minister’s younger brother.
Among the successful undertakings was Sino-Diamond, a venture financed
by the state-owned China Mineral and Gem Corporation, which she
headed. The company had business ties with a state-owned company
managed by another brother, Zhang Jiankun, who worked as an official
in Jiaxing, Ms. Zhang’s hometown, in Zhejiang Province.
In the summer of 1999, after securing agreements to import diamonds
from Russia and South Africa, Sino-Diamond went public, raising $50
million on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. The offering netted Ms.
Zhang’s family about $8 million, according to corporate filings.
Although she was never listed as a shareholder, former colleagues and
business partners say Ms. Zhang’s early diamond partnerships were the
nucleus of a larger portfolio of companies she would later help her
family and colleagues gain a stake in.
The Times found no indication that Wen Jiabao used his political clout
to influence the diamond companies his relatives invested in. But
former business partners said that the family’s success in diamonds,
and beyond, was often bolstered with financial backing from wealthy
businessmen who sought to curry favor with the prime minister’s
“After Wen became prime minister, his wife sold off some of her
diamond investments and moved into new things,” said a Chinese
executive who did business with the family. He asked not to be named
because of fear of government retaliation. Corporate records show that
beginning in the late 1990s, a series of rich businessmen took turns
buying up large stakes in the diamond companies, often from relatives
of Mr. Wen, and then helped them reinvest in other lucrative ventures,
like real estate and finance.
According to corporate records and interviews, the businessmen often
supplied accountants and office space to investment partnerships
partly controlled by the relatives.
“When they formed companies,” said one businessman who set up a
company with members of the Wen family, “Ms. Zhang stayed in the
background. That’s how it worked.”
The Only Son
Late one evening early this year, the prime minister’s only son, Wen
Yunsong, was in the cigar lounge at Xiu, an upscale bar and lounge at
the Park Hyatt in Beijing. He was having cocktails as Beijing’s
nouveau riche gathered around, clutching designer bags and wearing
expensive business suits, according to two guests who were present.
In China, the children of senior leaders are widely believed to be in
a class of their own. Known as “princelings,” they often hold Ivy
League degrees, get V.I.P. treatment, and are even offered preferred
pricing on shares in hot stock offerings.
They are also known as people who can get things done in China’s
heavily regulated marketplace, where the state controls access. And in
recent years, few princelings have been as bold as the younger Mr.
Wen, who goes by the English name Winston and is about 40 years old.
A Times review of Winston Wen’s investments, and interviews with
people who have known him for years, show that his deal-making has
been extensive and lucrative, even by the standards of his princeling
State-run giants like China Mobile have formed start-ups with him. In
recent years, Winston Wen has been in talks with Hollywood studios
about a financing deal.
Concerned that China does not have an elite boarding school for
Chinese students, he recently hired the headmasters of Choate and
Hotchkiss in Connecticut to oversee the creation of a $150 million
private school now being built in the Beijing suburbs.
Winston Wen and his wife, moreover, have stakes in the technology
industry and an electric company, as well as an indirect stake in
Union Mobile Pay, the government-backed online payment platform — all
while living in the prime minister’s residence, in central Beijing,
according to corporate records and people familiar with the family’s
“He’s not shy about using his influence to get things done,” said one
venture capitalist who regularly meets with Winston Wen.
The younger Mr. Wen declined to comment. But in a telephone interview,
his wife, Yang Xiaomeng, said her husband had been unfairly criticized
for his business dealings.
“Everything that has been written about him has been wrong,” she said.
“He’s really not doing that much business anymore.”
Winston Wen was educated in Beijing and then earned an engineering
degree from the Beijing Institute of Technology. He went abroad and
earned a master’s degree in engineering materials from the University
of Windsor, in Canada, and an M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of
Business at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., just outside
When he returned to China in 2000, he helped set up three successful
technology companies in five years, according to people familiar with
those deals. Two of them were sold to Hong Kong businessmen, one to
the family of Li Ka-shing, one of the wealthiest men in Asia.
Winston Wen’s earliest venture, an Internet data services provider
called Unihub Global, was founded in 2000 with $2 million in start-up
capital, according to Hong Kong and Beijing corporate filings.
Financing came from a tight-knit group of relatives and his mother’s
former colleagues from government and the diamond trade, as well as an
associate of Cheng Yu-tung, patriarch of Hong Kong’s second-wealthiest
family. The firm’s earliest customers were state-owned brokerage
houses and Ping An, in which the Wen family has held a large financial
He made an even bolder move in 2005, by pushing into private equity
when he formed New Horizon Capital with a group of Chinese-born
classmates from Northwestern. The firm quickly raised $100 million
from investors, including SBI Holdings, a division of the Japanese
group SoftBank, and Temasek, the Singapore government investment fund.
Under Mr. Wen, New Horizon established itself as a leading private
equity firm, investing in biotech, solar, wind and construction
equipment makers. Since it began operations, the firm has returned
about $430 million to investors, a fourfold profit, according to SBI
“Their first fund was dynamite,” said Kathleen Ng, editor of Asia
Private Equity Review, an industry publication in Hong Kong. “And that
allowed them to raise a lot more money.”
Today, New Horizon has more than $2.5 billion under management.
Some of Winston Wen’s deal-making, though, has attracted unwanted
attention for the prime minister.
In 2010, when New Horizon acquired a 9 percent stake in a company
called Sihuan Pharmaceuticals just two months before its public
offering, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange said the late-stage investment
violated its rules and forced the firm to return the stake. Still, New
Horizon made a $46.5 million profit on the sale.
Soon after, New Horizon announced that Winston Wen had handed over
day-to-day operations and taken up a position at the China Satellite
Communications Corporation, a state-owned company that has ties to the
Chinese space program. He has since been named chairman.
In the late 1990s, Duan Weihong was managing an office building and
several other properties in Tianjin, the prime minister’s hometown in
northern China, through her property company, Taihong. She was in her
20s and had studied at the Nanjing University of Science and
Around 2002, Ms. Duan went into business with several relatives of Wen
Jiabao, transforming her property company into an investment vehicle
of the same name. The company helped make Ms. Duan very wealthy.
It is not known whether Ms. Duan, now 43, is related to the prime
minister. In a series of interviews, she first said she did not know
any members of the Wen family, but later described herself as a friend
of the family and particularly close to Zhang Beili, the prime
minister’s wife. As happened to a handful of other Chinese
entrepreneurs, Ms. Duan’s fortunes soared as she teamed up with the
relatives and their network of friends and colleagues, though she
described her relationship with them involving the shares in Ping An
as existing on paper only and having no financial component.
Ms. Duan and other wealthy businesspeople — among them, six
billionaires from across China — have been instrumental in getting
multimillion-dollar ventures off the ground and, at crucial times,
helping members of the Wen family set up investment vehicles to profit
from them, according to investment bankers who have worked with all
Established in Tianjin, Taihong had spectacular returns. In 2002, the
company paid about $65 million to acquire a 3 percent stake in Ping An
before its initial public offering, according to corporate records and
Ms. Duan’s graduate school thesis. Five years later, those shares were
worth $3.7 billion
The company’s Hong Kong affiliate, Great Ocean, also run by Ms. Duan,
later formed a joint venture with the Beijing government and acquired
a huge tract of land adjacent to Capital International Airport. Today,
the site is home to a sprawling cargo and logistics center. Last year,
Great Ocean sold its 53 percent stake in the project to a Singapore
company for nearly $400 million.
That deal and several other investments, in luxury hotels, Beijing
villa developments and the Hong Kong-listed BBMG, one of China’s
largest building materials companies, have been instrumental to Ms.
Duan’s accumulation of riches, according to The Times’s review of
The review also showed that over the past decade there have been
nearly three dozen individual shareholders of Taihong, many of whom
are either relatives of Wen Jiabao or former colleagues of his wife.
The other wealthy entrepreneurs who have worked with the prime
minister’s relatives declined to comment for this article. Ms. Duan
strongly denied having financial ties to the prime minister or his
relatives and said she was only trying to avoid publicity by listing
others as owning Ping An shares. “The money I invested in Ping An was
completely my own,” said Ms. Duan, who has served as a member of the
Ping An board of supervisors. “Everything I did was legal.”
Another wealthy partner of the Wen relatives has been Cheng Yu-tung,
who controls the Hong Kong conglomerate New World Development and is
one of the richest men in Asia, worth about $15 billion, according to
In the 1990s, New World was seeking a foothold in mainland China for a
sister company that specializes in high-end retail jewelry. The retail
chain, Chow Tai Fook, opened its first store in China in 1998.
Mr. Cheng and his associates invested in a diamond venture backed by
the relatives of Mr. Wen and co-invested with them in an array of
corporate entities, including Sino-Life, National Trust and Ping An,
according to records and interviews with some of those involved. Those
investments by Mr. Cheng are now worth at least $5 billion, according
to the corporate filings. Chow Tai Fook, the jewelry chain, has also
flourished. Today, China accounts for 60 percent of the chain’s $4.2
billion in annual revenue.
Mr. Cheng, 87, could not be reached for comment. Calls to New World
Development were not returned.
Fallout for Premier
In the winter of 2007, just before he began his second term as prime
minister, Wen Jiabao called for new measures to fight corruption,
particularly among high-ranking officials.
“Leaders at all levels of government should take the lead in the
antigraft drive,” he told a gathering of high-level party members in
Beijing. “They should strictly ensure that their family members,
friends and close subordinates do not abuse government influence.”
The speech was consistent with the prime minister’s earlier drive to
toughen disclosure rules for public servants, and to require senior
officials to reveal their family assets.
Whether Mr. Wen has made such disclosures for his own family is
unclear, since the Communist Party does not release such information.
Even so, many of the holdings found by The Times would not need to be
disclosed under the rules since they are not held in the name of the
prime minister’s immediate family — his wife, son and daughter.
Eighty percent of the $2.7 billion in assets identified in The Times’s
investigation and verified by the outside auditors were held by, among
others, the prime minister’s mother, his younger brother, two
brothers-in-law, a sister-in-law, daughter-in-law and the parents of
his son’s wife, none of whom is subject to party disclosure rules. The
total value of the relatives’ stake in Ping An is based on
calculations by The Times that were confirmed by the auditors. The
total includes shares held by the relatives that were sold between
2004 and 2006, and the value of the remaining shares in late 2007, the
last time the holdings were publicly disclosed.
Legal experts said that determining the precise value of holdings in
China could be difficult because there might be undisclosed side
agreements about the true beneficiaries.
“Complex corporate structures are not necessarily insidious,” said
Curtis J. Milhaupt, a Columbia University Law School professor who has
studied China’s corporate group structures. “But in a system like
China’s, where corporate ownership and political power are closely
intertwined, shell companies magnify questions about who owns what and
where the money came from.”
Among the investors in the Wen family ventures are longtime business
associates, former colleagues and college classmates, including Yu
Jianming, who attended Northwestern with Winston Wen, and Zhang
Yuhong, a longtime colleague of Wen Jiahong, the prime minister’s
younger brother. The associates did not return telephone calls seeking
Revelations about the Wen family’s wealth could weaken him politically.
Next month, at the 18th Party Congress in Beijing, the Communist Party
is expected to announce a new generation of leaders. But the selection
process has already been marred by one of the worst political scandals
in decades, the downfall of Bo Xilai, the Chongqing party boss, who
was vying for a top position.
In Beijing, Wen Jiabao is expected to step down as prime minister
because he has reached retirement age. Political analysts say that
even after leaving office he could remain a strong backstage political
force. But documents showing that his relatives amassed a fortune
during his tenure could diminish his standing, the analysts said.
“This will affect whatever residual power Wen has,” said Minxin Pei,
an expert on Chinese leadership and a professor of government at
Claremont McKenna College in California.
The prime minister’s supporters say he has not personally benefited
from his extended family’s business dealings, and may not even be
knowledgeable about the extent of them.
Last March, the prime minister hinted that he was at least aware of
the persistent rumors about his relatives. During a nationally
televised news conference in Beijing, he insisted that he had “never
pursued personal gain” in public office.
“I have the courage to face the people and to face history,” he said
in an emotional session. “There are people who will appreciate what I
have done, but there are also people who will criticize me.
Ultimately, history will have the final say.”