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Comment: Who's your father?

The return of Margaret Ren as head of China investment banking to Merrill Lynch is proof that, despite the rise of the private sector, the days of the 'Red Princelings' - the offspring of senior officials - are far from over.

Ren, who's married to the son of former Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang, was suspended from Citigroup in 2004 following an inquiry by US regulators into the China Life IPO.

She was subsequently exonerated of any wrongdoing in the scandal. However, the fact that Citibank has struggled in China ever since her departure suggests that it may not be a wise idea to offend a ranking member of China's elite.

There are plenty of other princelings in Hong Kong, but by and large, they keep a low profile. One such individual works at Credit Suisse, an Oxbridge graduate, and is considered excellent in her own right. Ren herself is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The need for relationships with senior party members in China is unfortunately as strong ever - and counts for much in hiring decisions.

One ray of light is the rise of the private sector. It may not really be private in the sense that it is in the West, but the network of relationships is arguable somewhat thinner there. And given private sector relationships' growing importance to deal pipelines, bankers in China may soon have the perfect excuse to duck out of the occasionally dangerous role of sourcing state-owned enterprise deals. At least, that's what we're told by those in the know.

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AUTHORDan Slater Insider Comment
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