Economic Revolution Brings Change in Mood of Chinese People With AM-Surging China Bjt.
NINGBO, China (AP) _ China’s decade-old economic revolution has brought sharp changes in people’s ambitions, lifestyles and social mores.
Whether in rapidly modernizing coastal cities such as Ningbo with its hotels, discos and high-rise apartments, or in nearby towns where peasants still thresh grain by hand, Chinese are saying the changes in their lives go far deeper than mere gains in income.
The surge in economic activity has brought new opportunities, new risks and new rivalries as some people get rich faster than others.
One who epitomizes the new Chinese dream of success is Xu Kaya.
A former peasant and assembly line worker, he presides over one of the largest private companies in Cixi, a rural town outside Ningbo. His television parts factory will turn out 3 million yuan ($804,000) worth of goods this year, and he is a partner in a new chemical fibre factory being built.
He has a Toshiba color television set, a Nissan sedan and a maid.
Ten years ago, Xu was planting rice on a commune, his dreams of studying medicine thwarted by the shutdown of universities by Mao Tse-tung’s 1966-76 leftist Cultural Revolution.
″I learned to overcome difficulties and developed a strong desire to get ahead,″ he said.
Now 33, he spends 12 to 13 hours a days at his factory. He has no time to think about joining the Communist Party, once necessary for success in China.
″I rely on my own ability,″ he said.
Nor does he fear political change.
″If they call me a capitalist, they’d have to call 70 percent of the population capitalists.″
Jiang Yuenan, a young Cixi government worker, agreed. Local farmers, he said, are always on the lookout for a profitable venture and most have more than one source of income.
Some rent trucks to haul their produce 55 miles to Ningbo, a city of 1 million people, for the best prices, or to act as middlemen in business deals, or buy up raw materials in one town to sell for profit in another.
Such activities were politically suspect 10 years ago, but they are now part of daily life in rural China.
City dwellers are not far behind.
Zhang Hangtie, a barber, is one of 60,000 Ningbo residents who have opened private businesses in the past decade, and he revels in it both for the profits and the independence.
″I am my own boss,″ he said as he blow-dried a customer’s hair in his tiny shop in the front room of a traditional two-story wood row house. ″I wanted to get rich and now I can.″
But not all Chinese are able to that. Income differentials have widened sharply, creating new social tensions rooted in jealousy.
A Beijing newspaper reported the case of a woman factory worker who beat up a private tradesman on the street because she was angered by his flamboyant lifestyle. Private factory owners in several cities have been attacked and even killed by workers who accused them of exploitation for giving themselves higher salaries.
The World Economic Herald of teeming Shanghai, which is 125 miles north of Ningbo, said recently that many people’s expectations have far exceeded what is possible, and ″the general sense of frustration is threatening to snowball.″
Some older Chinese say the new opportunities came too late for them, while they and others are reluctant to plunge into market competition and risk losing the guarantees of a state-run economy: lifetime employment, free medical care and subsidized food and housing.
Yu Jin, a 26-year-old city-employed translator, said he’d thought about setting up a private translation service for foreign visitors to Ningbo, but feared giving up his secure government job.
One large group left behind in the reforms are intellectuals, who survived decades of political suspicion in the Mao years and now find themselves surpassed in income by Zhang the barber and factory workers.
Chen Lianjun, the 41-year-old vice principal of the Ningbo high school, said she earns 180 yuan ($48) a month, including subsidies for food and books; Zhang earns 800 yuan ($214) a month. ″It seems unfair,″ she said.
″Money isn’t important,″ said her husband, Wang Wenhe, also 41 years old. ″What counts are traditional values such as family and friends.″
″The young people’s thinking isn’t like ours,″ his wife said. ″They don’t like to suffer. They want higher salaries, and when they have vacations they want to travel. It’s a new trend.″
End Adv for Sunday, Nov. 27