Rong Yiren
Rong Yiren in 1949
Vice President of China
In office
March 12, 1993 – March 15, 1998
PresidentJiang Zemin
Preceded byWang Zhen
Succeeded byHu Jintao
Personal details
Born(1916-05-01)May 1, 1916
Wuxi, Jiangsu, Republic of China
DiedOctober 26, 2005(2005-10-26) (aged 89)
Beijing, China
Political partyChinese Communist Party China Democratic National Construction Association
(m. 1937)
Alma materSt. John's University, Shanghai
Rong Yiren
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese

Rong Yiren (Chinese: 荣毅仁; Wade–Giles: Jung I-jen; May 1, 1916 – October 26, 2005)[1] was the Vice President of China from 1993 to 1998 and was heavily involved with the opening of the Chinese economy to western investment. Rong is known both in China and in the Western world as "the Red Capitalist" because his family were some of the few pre-1949 industrialists in Shanghai to have been treated well by the Chinese Communist Party in return for their co-operation with the government of the People's Republic of China.


Early life

Rong Yiren and wife Yang Jianqing, 1937.

Rong was born on May 1, 1916, in Wuxi, a city near Shanghai in Jiangsu Province.[2] His father Rong Desheng and uncle Rong Zongjing were the founders and operators of a flour and cotton milling business. He graduated with a degree in history from the Christian-run St. John's University. Then he was assigned to manage a part of the family business and he took over the running of all 24 mills upon the death of his elder brother Paul Yung (Rong Yixin) in an air crash on Basalt Island, Hong Kong, on 21 December 1948.[3]

Post Chinese Civil War

At the end of the Chinese Civil War and the founding of the People's Republic of China, Rong chose to stay on the Chinese mainland instead of fleeing to Hong Kong or Taiwan as most businessmen did. His family was allowed to keep their business until 1956, when all private businesses became state-owned. His family was given $6 million in compensation.

In the 1950s, Mao Zedong endorsed him many times for his contributions to the Communist Party. When Korean hostilities broke out, Rong's family contributed substantial amounts of funding along with considerable clothing. He was appointed the vice-mayor of Shanghai in 1957 and Vice Minister of Textiles concurrently since 1959,[1][4] later served as an economics adviser for the Chinese Communist Party.

Cultural Revolution

During the Cultural Revolution, he was denounced as a "capitalist". He lost a great deal of his personal wealth and was the target of death threats from the Red Guards, radical youth organizations aligned with the new social and cultural policies of Mao Zedong. In a situation typical of disgraced government officials, entrepreneurs and intellectuals during the Cultural Revolution, Rong was given a demeaning job as a janitor. However, he and his family received protection from Zhou Enlai from persecution from the Red Guards. As Rong was not a Communist party member at the time, Zhou was not able to obtain approval from Mao Zedong to protect Rong officially. Instead, Zhou coordinated with Chen Jinhua to place Rong's mansion under the control of Red Guards affiliated with the Ministry of Textiles, who were deeply sympathetic to him and protected him from other Red Guard factions.[5]

Chinese economic reformation

After the death of Mao Zedong and the end of Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping appointed Rong as an advisor for the economic opening of China. He set up the China International Trust and Investment Corp., or CITIC, in 1978, which was responsible for much of the initial western investment in China.

At the height of the pro-democracy movement in 1989, he risked his life by asking the top Chinese leaders to negotiate with the students. A week after the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989, he called the crackdown “extraordinarily wise and correct.”[6]

He was appointed to the ceremonial post of vice president in 1993.

Later life

Rong retired on March 15, 1998, and died on October 26, 2005.[2] He was listed as one of the richest men in Asia, with a family fortune of $1.9 billion in 2000 (equivalent to $3 billion in 2023). Most of this wealth can be attributed to Rong's son Larry Yung in his role as chair of CITIC Pacific.[7]

Although regarded as a non-Communist during his lifetime, he was a member of Chinese Communist Party since 1985, according to his official obituary in Chinese; yet owing to his request that his membership be unveiled only after his death, almost nobody knew about his status as a communist even after his vice presidency.

Life and death

He died of pneumonia on October 26, 2005, at the age of 89. His funeral was held on November 3, 2005, and he was interred at Overseas Chinese Cemetery. His wife died seven years later and was buried next to him. Less than two years after his death, his friend Bo Yibo died on January 15, 2007.

Personal life

In 1988 Rong requested Deng to inscribe "Chinese: 戒欺室" (translated: "Admonish Deception Room") on a plaque to be hung at his sitting room.[8] To avoid using deception as a merchant was his father's motto. This scene is portrayed in drama Deng Xiaoping at History's Crossroads.

He married Yang Jianqing (Chinese: 杨鑑清) in 1937. Yang died on January 8, 2014, in Hong Kong. His daughter-in-law Catherine Yam Yung is the cousin of Juliana Yam.[9]


  1. ^ a b "榮毅仁同志生平". (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2017-06-05.
  2. ^ a b "Rong Yiren". The Independent. 29 October 2005. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  3. ^ Pickerell, David (19 November 2007). "Basalt Island Crash Investigation" (PDF). Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  4. ^ Encyclopedia of China, Vol. 18 (2nd edition, 中国大百科全书(第二版)第18册). Encyclopedia of China Publishing House. 2009. p. 513. ISBN 978-7-500-07958-3.
  5. ^ "周总理在文革初期嘱咐:"荣毅仁一定要保护好" =". Jiefang Daily (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 2013-05-06. Retrieved 2017-06-05.
  6. ^ Thomas, Neil (2021-01-11). "The Red Capitalist". The Wire China. Retrieved 2021-02-04.
  7. ^ "Rong Yiren | The Economist". The Economist.
  8. ^ Zhang, Dejiang. "在纪念荣毅仁同志诞辰100周年座谈会上的讲话". Retrieved 2017-06-05.
  9. ^ "杨鑑清同志逝世". Retrieved 2017-06-05.[dead link]
Political offices Preceded byWang Zhen Vice President of China 1993–1998 Succeeded byHu Jintao Business positions New title Chairman of China International Trust and Investment Corporation 1978–1993 Succeeded byWei Mingyi General-manager of China International Trust and Investment Corporation 1978–1993 Succeeded byWang Jun Academic offices Preceded byLiao Chengzhi Chairman of the Board of Jinan University 1985–1993 Succeeded byQian Weichang