Hover on members of the family tree to read about them.
Deng Xiaoping emerged as leader after Mao's death, overseeing China's economic opening. Deng famously wore a 10-gallon hat at a rodeo during a 1979 U.S. visit. Son Zhifang soon followed to America, earning a physics Ph.D. at the University of Rochester. Grandson Zhuo Di, a bridge player, used to work with U.S. law firm White & Case. Another grandson, Zhuo Su, is chairman of a company invested in an Australian iron ore miner.
A typesetter before the war, Chen Yun was lauded by Mao for stabilizing the economy after 1949 and was an architect of economic planning. While Chen frowned on the pace of Deng's reforms, his family took to capitalism. Son Chen Yuan runs China Development Bank. Grandson Xiaoxin works in private equity, as does his sister Xiaodan, who wore an Oscar de la Renta dress at a 2006 debutante ball in Paris.
Purged in the 1960s, Song Renqiong lived in a mud-brick house on a labor farm, later returning to power with Deng Xiaoping. Three of his daughters left in the 1980s to study in the U.S. and became American citizens: Binbin, a famous Red Guard, worked for the State of Massachusetts. Zhenzhen lives in San Francisco and is developing an e-commerce company. Zhaozhao is a nurse in Michigan.
Alan Lee Knaus
Peng Zhen, the longtime Communist Party boss of Beijing, was purged, like most of the Immortals, during the 1966–1976 Cultural Revolution. Son Fu Liang runs a Shenzhen golf club and is on the board of a Citic-owned TV and satellite communications company.
Wang Zhen, the plain-spoken general, called "Uncle Beard" by Deng Xiaoping's family, is credited with saving the Communist Revolution by carving farms from wasteland near Mao's redoubt of Yan'an. His sons were all business executives: Wang Jun ran Citic Group and now spends his time promoting golf; Wang Zhi founded a computer company; and Wang Bing was in aviation. Great-granddaughter Clare travels between college in Sydney and the family home in Beijing.
Bo Yibo was the last Immortal to die, at age 98. He was Mao's first finance minister and later a vice premier. Son Bo Xilai entered the ruling Politburo months after his father's death in 2007. He was ousted in 2012 and accused of taking bribes, after his wife was found guilty of murdering a British businessman.
Li Xiannian backed Deng Xiaoping's decision to suppress the student protests on Tiananmen Square in 1989. Son Li Ping became a major general. Daughter Li Xiaolin studied at UCLA, married an outspoken Air Force general, and, like one of Deng's daughters, spends her time running a semi-official diplomatic organization.
As president of China and a PLA leader, Yang Shangkun, together with his brother General Yang Baibing backed the decision to crush the Tiananmen Square protestors. Son Yang Shaojing followed his father into the army. Daughter Yang Li was honorary chairman of a company partly owned by Citic Group and is married to a top executive at China Poly Group, the state-owned arms-to-real estate conglomerate.
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Like any aristocracy, the families of the Eight Immortals often intertwine. Connections found by Bloomberg News include business dealings, employers in common, ties to the same private or state-owned companies and diplomatic organizations, and even an intermarriage.
Hover on a section to see an entire clan’s connections, or click to see the clan’s family tree.
Hover on a circle to see one family member’s connections.
Hover on a line to see details of the connection.
Below are the Eight Immortals, founding fathers of Communist China who later emerged from the chaos of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution to orchestrate the opening of China to the world in 1978. Click on an immortal to explore his family tree and see what happened to the next generations.
Bo Yibo 薄一波Communist China's first finance minister, he later served four terms as vice premier. He was purged during the Cultural Revolution and came back to help Deng Xiaoping reshape the economy.
Chen Yun 陈云One of the earliest members of the Communist Party, his influence rivaled Deng Xiaoping's. He ran economic policy in the 1980s and is famous for his description of China's economic reform as being like a bird in a cage.
Song Renqiong 宋任穷Communist Party war hero in charge of northeastern provinces and space technology industries. His power peaked in the 1980s, when he became one of the elders that ruled the country.
Peng Zhen 彭真Beijing party chief purged at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, he returned to the Politburo in 1979 and became National People's Congress chairman in 1983. Peng oversaw drafting of laws that accompanied China's economic opening up.
Li Xiannian 李先念President from 1983 to 1988, he helped orchestrate the arrest of the so-called "Gang of Four," led by Mao Zedong's wife, blamed for the Cultural Revolution. An architect of China's economic policy, he ordered his family to stay out of business, according to state media interviews with his children.
Yang Shangkun 杨尚昆China's president from 1988 to 1993. He was promoted to first vice chairman of the Central Military Commission after the Tiananmen Square crackdown, while his brother, another general, also rose up the ranks. A close ally of Deng Xiaoping, Yang Shangkun lost military power after 1992.
PHOTOS Deng: AFP/Getty Images; Bo: EyePress; Chen: AFP/Getty Images; Song: Family photo via Miller Song; Peng: AP Photo/Neal Ulevich; Wang: AFP/Getty Images; Li: Keystone/Getty Images; Yang: AFP/Getty Images
Tracking the fortunes of 103 people – the Immortals' descendants and their spouses* – Bloomberg News shows how they reaped benefits from China's boom. They parlayed state jobs and connections into private careers, and were able to work, study and buy property overseas.
Clans with connections
Educated overseas: 30 people
Lived, worked or owned property in U.S.: 34 people
Executives in private business: 43 people
Executives in state-owned enterprises: 26 people
Held government or Communist Party positions: 30 people
Links to companies registered offshore: 18 people
Ties to China's military: 25 people
Worked in finance: 27 people
Worked in technology: 21 people
Worked in real estate: 16 people
* Note: Bloomberg's relative trend counts do not include Alan Lee Knaus, who is not a Chinese descendant.