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Home  /  Inside China  /  Guan er dai - 官二代 - A mixture of social unrest and corruption
Guan er dai - 官二代 - A mixture of social unrest and corruption print version
Many slang terms describe the instable social conditions in China, but 'guan erdai' is perhaps more than any of them causing unrest for Chinese politicians, as it keeps them under the suspicious eye of public discourse.

官二代 - guan er dai - means the second generation of government officials. This term is expressed in a derogative sense, indicating on the social privileges that offspring of officials enjoy. Except for acquiring high status, the guan er dai do not experience problems in finding good job posts (often in the governmental sector), earn high incomes and have sustainable connections with policy-makers.

The infamous 'my father is Li Gang' statement is probably the 'classic' ancestor of the guan er dai rhetoric. In a shocking incident in October 2010, youngster Li Qiming drove recklessly in the campus of Hebei University, injuring one woman student and killing another, Chen Xiaofeng. The fact that Li is the son of a deputy chief police official Li Gang was less disturbing than Li Qiming's arrogant statement, seconds after committing the crime, "my father is Li Gang!" This synopsis expectedly reinforced public sentiments concerning the corruptive power that the guan er dai enjoy. The fact that Li Qiming was sentenced for six years in prison did not relieve social discomfort.

Several popular idioms and expressions narrate the lack of values of certain members of society, the corruptive power of money and the different 'treatment' that certain groups receive from the governmental organs. Chinese journalists and bloggers frequently compare between guan er dai and fu er dai, with the latter signifying 'the second generation of the rich'. Both terms carry a sense of corruption but there are also some important differences between the two. While fu er dai is a term that can be directed at a wide spectrum of youngsters who grew up in financially-pampering conditions and have therefore lost a responsible social orientation, guan er dai is more directly aimed at government officials. Guan er dai doesn't abstractly imply on a 'corrupted landscape' but specifically stirs up anger towards officials. This term puts offspring of governmental personal under the constant and suspicious public's gaze.

Officials are perhaps in no need for extra sympathy here, but with the growing exposure of internet social networks (mainly the Sina Weibo), criticism and anger towards corrupted officials are on the verge of reaching higher levels. While big portions of the public are indifferent and accept the fact the corruption is here to stay, many members of society utilize the internet platform and stir up social anger whenever something fishy (maoni 猫腻)  is reported on the news.

guan_er_dai_431
                                     A popular image of a guan er dai violent driver (davioo.com)

Concerning privileges given to guan er dai by their parents, such as social connections (guanxi) or a good job, while criticism is expressed in light of the arduous path that commoners need to pass in order to step in a governmental post, this phenomenon is not likely to be limited anytime soon. Guanxi exists everywhere, especially when taking care of a child's prospect, and therefore society does not really have the means to protest against this.

A domain where the guan erdai demon is manifested with greater intensity is public response to new reports about crimes committed by youngsters. After Ma Wencong, a son of a rich family in Wenzhou, struck a woman and her daughter over a parking dispute, rumors were spread through the internet that he said "I am the son of the mayor" (which he clearly isn't). Government affiliated articles had to reject these rumors and ad an extra warning about the risks of spreading rumors through the Weibo. However, incidents like this one show the power of the internet platform and the 'hunger' of some netizens for unraveling corruption.

While the Chinese central government wishes to win public legitimacy by addressing corruption and showing its upper hands over it (unlike the stands that some local governments express), it also wishes to relieve social unrest and have more control on the image of officials and of their offspring, the guan er dai

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