He's adversaries -- many of whom call for a return to the ideals of a Maoist era -- are skeptical of private capital, appalled by rampant corruption, and antagonistic towards what they see as dangerous Western values. These adversaries, whose heroes include the fallen political star Bo Xilai and the politically wounded corruption-fighting general Liu Yuan, have a term for everything that He Di's Boyuan represents: "The Western Hostile Forces." Luckily, He has the chips to play in such a high-stakes game.
Besides his own princeling roots, which protect him from the state, He has the backing of his foundation's chairman Qin Xiao, who held a ministerial-level position as chairman of one of China's top state-owned financial conglomerates. Boyuan's directors include Brent Scowcroft, the former U.S. national security advisor. The Boyuan steering committee includes the publisher of the path-breaking investigative magazine Caijing, a son of one of the most important generals of the revolution (Chen Yi), and a group of officials who, between them, manage the largest accumulation of financial assets in the history of global capital.
He's childhood friends who have worked closely with Boyuan include the governor of the People's Bank of China, Zhou Xiaochuan, and Wang Qishan, the financial-system czar who is set to enter the Politburo Standing Committee, China's top decision making body, this week. They, along with several other princelings who have risen to the top of Chinese finance, became close friends, ironically, when they were red guards, fighting "capitalist roaders" in Mao's Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s.
Many of the protagonists at Boyuan have levers of the state at their disposal, and are organizing and challenging the party line in ways that would lead ordinary citizens to be branded as dissidents. Further in the organization's background, offering moral and practical support, are members of some of China's most powerful families -- including former security chief Qiao Shi, former premier Zhu Rongji, and former president Jiang Zemin.
He traces China's spiritual and policy drift to 2003, the year in which the team of then President Jiang and Premier Zhu entrusted the party and government apparatus to their successors Hu and Wen Jiabao. He says the administration moved away from "opening and reform" -- former leader Deng Xiaoping's policy of bringing China in line with the rest of the world -- and the resulting vacuum was filled with counterproductive criticism of privatization and reform. Leaders are isolated from their mid-level officials, each bureaucracy is siloed from the next, and there is no framework to mediate their interests or debate the wider merits of any particular proposal, he says. And once they started back down the old road of central planning, high-ranking officials grew addicted to the power it brought them. "The current leaders have really disappointed because I don't know what they believe," says He. "They were educated by the party, the old doctrines of Marxism, yet they lack growth experiences at the grassroots. They are really engineers who still want to enjoy the dividends from the previous generation leadership."
He believes in China's ability transform itself but knows it might not happen easily. He thinks Mao was an aberration who hurt his family's 100-year quest to bring China into modernity. Mao saw peasants and workers as an undifferentiated mass to be organized and mobilized, but not respected -- a man who represents China's past and used communism instead of Confucianism as his doctrine of control. "Mao called himself Qin Shihuang plus Stalin," He said, referring to China's first emperor. "He used revolution to repackage China's despotic tradition and crown himself emperor."
When Deng and his successors committed to the market they also committed to the values that underpinned it, He says, including the ideal of law. Hu, by contrast, eviscerated the integrity of the individual, and his administration's combination of extreme nationalism, extreme populism, and state capitalism means that history can repeat itself, He warns.
And that's why the Nazi exhibit scared him so.