Why Do Chinese Billionaires Keep Ending Up in Prison?


In most places, being ranked by a prominent magazine among the wealthiest people in the country constitutes a great honor. Not in China. Such lists, known as bai fu bang in China and published in Forbes and its Chinese equivalent Hurun, are described instead as the sha zhu bang: "kill pigs list."


What accounts for the sharp rise and fall of China's wealthiest? In a business environment in which personal connections and favors -- referred to as guanxi in Chinese -- predominate, many tycoons have amassed large fortunes without concern of rules and regulations. However, such a fast and loose atmosphere can cut both ways.


Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese leader responsible for instituting economic reforms, famously advocated "letting a few people get rich first". More than three decades later, life for these rich has grown increasingly precarious.  For China's numerous poor, alas, the second part of Deng's bargain has not yet arrived.


Now it seems more like, "letting a few people get rich first, and then put them in jail."