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The Eight Great Eminent Officials (Chinese: 八大元老; pinyin: Bā dà yuánlǎo), abbreviated as the Eight Elders (Chinese: 八老; pinyin: Bā lǎo), were a group of elderly members of the Communist Party of China who held substantial power during the 1980s and 1990s. In the English-speaking world, these men are often sarcastically called The Eight Immortals as an allusion to the Taoist deities commonly known as the Eight Immortals.
The identities of the Eight, who have all since died, are:
- Deng Xiaoping (1904–1997), "Paramount Leader", Politburo Standing Committee member 1977–1987, Political Consultative Conference chairman 1978–1983, Central Military Commission Chairman 1980–1989, Central Advisory Commission chairman 1982–1987
- Chen Yun (1905–1995), Politburo Standing Committee member 1977–1987, Central Advisory Committee Chairman 1987–1992, Central Discipline Inspection Commission first secretary 1979-1987
- Li Xiannian (1909–1992), Politburo Standing Committee member 1977–1987, President of the PRC 1983–1988, then Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference chairman
- Peng Zhen (1902–1997), National People's Congress Chairman 1983–1988
- Yang Shangkun (1907–1998), President of the PRC 1988–1993.
- Bo Yibo (1908–2007), Central Advisory Committee Vice Chairman
- Wang Zhen (1908–1993), Central Advisory Committee Vice Chairman
- Song Renqiong (1909–2005), CAC Vice Chairman
Role in "strongman politics"
According to Xiang Lanxin, politics professor at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, the Chinese politburo system is itself inherited from the Bolsheviks in 1917 under Vladimir Lenin when he established it to command and control the October Revolution. However, like in Russia, "strongman politics" played a large role in internal decision-making in these states in the 20th century: Politburos under Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong were dysfunctional and largely decorative, allowing the top leaders to dictate party policy and the fate of the other leaders.
Under Deng Xiaoping, important decisions were always taken in Deng's home with a caucus of eight senior party cadres, called "Eight Elders". Deng ruled as paramount leader although he never held the top title of the party, and was able to remove three party leaders; some members of Eight Elders were instrumental in removing Hu Yaobang in 1987, and Zhao Ziyang in 1989.
Descendants of the Eight Elders who have benefited significantly from nepotism and cronyism constitute a group now known as "the Princelings" or the "Crown Prince Party". Its members, rising through party ranks, can easily overrule any opposition in their jurisdictions, even if they are assigned to a local administrative position. They are often seen to outrank other party officials and possess greater prestige due to their lineage.  Bloomberg has reported on the extensive wealth accumulated by these descendants via their roles in various national and privatized companies.
- Joseph, William A. (2010). Politics in China: An Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 112. ISBN 978-0-19-533530-9.
- Xiang, Lanxin (Apr 20, 2012). "Bo Xilai probe shows up China's outdated system of government". South China Morning Post
- "Heirs of Mao’s Comrades Rise as New Capitalist Nobility". Retrieved December 28, 2012.
- AsiaWeek article
- John Ruwitch 'China's leaders tug strings of power in retirement' (Reuters)