En­trepreneurs in­debted to Deng

Three decades of re­form and open­ing-up have trans­formed the na­tion, re­ports An Baijie in Bei­jing.

China Daily (Canada) - - FOCUS -

In 1963, busi­ness­man Nian Qiang’s fa­ther was caught sell­ing fish on the streets and sen­tenced to a year’s im­pris­on­ment for “spec­u­la­tion”. At the time, only State-owned en­ter­prises were al­lowed to run a busi­ness.

Nian Guangjiu was im­pris­oned again for sell­ing chest­nuts in 1966, at the start of the “cul­tural revo­lu­tion” (1966-76).

But the se­nior Nian was un­fazed. Af­ter be­ing re­leased from prison, he started sell­ing fried sun­flower seeds in 1972 — this time out­side work­ing hours to avoid be­ing caught by the po­lice.

Much like other as­pir­ing Chi­nese en­trepreneurs start­ing from scratch, the Nian sun­flower seed busi­ness be­gan to see the light of day only in 1979, a year af­ter the Com­mu­nist Party of China, led by Deng Xiaop­ing, put for­ward the pol­icy of re­form and open­ing-up.

Un­der the pol­icy, in­di­vid­u­als na­tion­wide were en­cour­aged to run busi­nesses and set up pri­vate com­pa­nies. This meant that fam­ily en­ter­prises like Nian’s sun­flower seed busi­ness be­came le­gal.

Deng’s vi­sion­ary move fu­eled the growth of pri­vate en­ter­prise and set a mile­stone for China’s mar­ket-ori­ented econ­omy.

Th­ese and other achieve­ments of Deng are be­ing re­mem­bered and re­vis­ited by ben­e­fi­cia­ries like the Nian fam­ily, amid the 110th an­niver­sary of the birth of the late leader, which falls on Fri­day.

Nian Qiang said his fam­ily busi­ness is in­debted to Deng’s lead­er­ship.

“It was Deng Xiaop­ing’s poli­cies of re­form that al­lowed our fam­ily busi­ness to sur­vive,” he said.

In 1979, Nian Guangjiu reg­is­tered the “Idiot Sun­flower Seeds” brand — af­ter the nick­name peo­ple gave him be­cause he always handed out ex­tra seeds to his cus­tomers.

But the “idiot” be­came a mil­lion­aire a few years later, when his prod­ucts were snapped up in his home­town of Wuhu city in East China’s An­hui prov­ince and dis­trib­uted na­tion­wide.

On Sept 4, 1981, when four lo­cal of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing a vice-mayor and a vi­ce­po­lice chief of Wuhu, vis­ited Nian’s fam­ily, the busi­ness­man be­came ner­vous — he was afraid of be­ing ar­rested for a third time since the poli­cies in the past decades had been fluc­tu­at­ing. The of­fi­cials did not cause trou­ble. On the con­trary, they praised Nian for his en­trepreneur­ship as well as the good fla­vor of his prod­ucts.

“We knew later that Deng Xiaop­ing had ex­pressed his sup­port for my fa­ther’s busi­ness be­fore the of­fi­cials vis­ited our home,” Nian Qiang said.

But it was yet not smooth sail­ing for the busi­ness. In late 1983, some of­fi­cials ques­tioned whether Nian’s com­pany should be re­stricted since the num­ber of his em­ploy­ees had ex­ceeded 100.

Un­der reg­u­la­tions at that time, a pri­vate com­pany could hire at most seven work­ers, and the em­ploy­ers would be pun­ished for “ex­ploita­tion” if they had a large head­count.

The lo­cal gov­ern­ment re­ported the sit­u­a­tion to the cen­tral au­thor­i­ties.

At a con­fer­ence on Dec 22, 1984, Deng made his re­ply — Nian should not be pun­ished, and the gov­ern­ment should con­vince the public that the re­form pol­icy will not change, ac­cord­ing to records high­lighted by the Se­lected Works of Deng Xiaop­ing.

“Once again, we had Deng Xiaop­ing and his poli­cies to thank,” said Nian Qiang, gen­eral man­ager of Idiot Sun­flower Seeds Co.

Un­der re­form and open­ing-up, the cen­tral au­thor­i­ties in­creas­ingly en­cour­aged pri­vate busi­nesses like the Ni­ans’ in the early 1980s.

On Oct 16, 1982, the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion for In­dus­try and Com­merce held a fair in Wuhan, cap­i­tal of Hubei prov­ince, invit­ing more than 110 pri­vate com­pa­nies in 13 prov­inces to ex­hibit and pro­mote their prod­ucts at the event, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by Xin­hua News Agency.

Pri­vate en­ter­prise un­der three decades of re­form and open­ing-up have trans­formed the coun­try.

By the end of 2011, there were 9.68 mil­lion pri­vate en­ter­prises and 37.56 mil­lion in­di­vid­ual busi­nesses, which em­ployed three times more peo­ple than State-owned com­pa­nies, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial statis­tics.

Last year, pri­vate busi­nesses em­ployed about 63 per­cent of grad­u­ates from oc­cu­pa­tional schools and 45 per­cent of univer­sity grad­u­ates, ac­cord­ing to a blue­book re­leased last month by the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences.

Deng’s his­toric con­tri­bu­tions to China are be­ing com­mem­o­rated na­tion­wide with the 110th an­niver­sary of his birth. Deng died in 1997, aged 93.

Since early this month, au­di­ences have been glued to their TV sets show­ing the 48-episode drama se­ries Deng Xiaop­ing at His­tory’s Cross­road.

The se­ries de­scribes Deng’s ex­pe­ri­ences between Oc­to­ber 1976, when the dis­as­trous “cul­tural revo­lu­tion” (1966-76) ended, and 1984, when the pol­icy of re­form and open­ing-up was im­ple­mented.

On Aug 14, a photo ex­hi­bi­tion mark­ing the his­toric Baise Up­ris­ing was also opened to the public in Guangzhou and Shen­zhen. Eighty-five years ago, Deng led an up­ris­ing in Baise of the Guangxi Zhuang au­ton­o­mous re­gion and set up a rev­o­lu­tion­ary base there.

In Deng’s home­town of Guang’an city, Sichuan prov­ince, the Han­lin Pri­mary School, where Deng used to study, was re­named the Red Army Pri­mary School on Feb 19, the 17th an­niver­sary of Deng’s death.

Since June, the Study Times, a news­pa­per run by the Party School of the Com­mu­nist Party of China Cen­tral Com­mit­tee, has pub­lished at least four ar­ti­cles re­lated to Deng, in­clud­ing his stan­dard for se­lect­ing gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

On Aug 16, Hu Chun­hua, Party chief of Guang­dong prov­ince, said at a sem­i­nar to com­mem­o­rate Deng that it was Deng who en­cour­aged the his­toric re­form mea­sures in Guang­dong.

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping has spo­ken highly of the re­form pushed by Deng many times. On Dec 8, 2012, less than a month af­ter Xi was elected as gen­eral sec­re­tary of the CPC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee, he vis­ited Guang­dong and paid trib­ute at a statue of Deng in a park.

The CPC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee’s de­ci­sion of re­form and open­ing-up is right, which should be main­tained to make the coun­try stronger and the peo­ple richer, Xi said to the peo­ple in the park.

In Novem­ber, a com­pre­hen­sive re­form pack­age was pub­li­cized af­ter the third ple­nary ses­sion of the 18th CPC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee. Ac­cord­ing to the plan, there would be 60 re­form tasks cov­er­ing is­sues in­clud­ing hukou (house­hold reg­is­tra­tion), ur­ban­iza­tion, and fam­ily plan­ning. Af­ter the ses­sion, a lead­ing team, headed by Xi, was es­tab­lished to deepen re­form.

The cen­tral and lo­cal gov­ern­ments’ ac­tiv­i­ties in com­mem­o­rat­ing Deng Xiaop­ing show that China’s top lead­ers will con­tinue their ef­forts to deepen re­form, said Wang Yukai, a pro­fes­sor of public ad­min­is­tra­tion with the Chi­nese Academy of Gover­nance, a gov­ern­ment-backed think tank.

The cen­tral gov­ern­ment has made great achieve­ments in fight­ing cor­rup­tion, which is ex­pected to clear ob­sta­cles for the re­form, he said.

Zhou Qiren, an econ­o­mist and pro­fes­sor of Pek­ing Univer­sity, said dur­ing a sem­i­nar early this year that the cen­tral gov­ern­ment is fac­ing tougher re­form tasks com­pared with those in the 1980s, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by ma­jor news por­tal Sina.com.

Zheng Bin, a fod­der man­u­fac­turer in Rizhao, Shan­dong prov­ince, said that com­pared with State-owned en­ter­prises, pri­vate com­pa­nies still face nu­mer­ous difficulties in many is­sues, in­clud­ing mar­ket ac­cess and loan ap­pli­ca­tions. Con­tact the writer at an­bai­jie@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Zhu Lixin con­trib­uted to this story.

TY­RONE SIU / REUTERS

Visi­tors in front of a pic­ture of Deng Xiaop­ing in Shen­zhen, Guang­dong prov­ince, on Tues­day.

PARKER ZHENG / CHINA DAILY

A visi­tor at an ex­hi­bi­tion com­mem­o­rat­ing the 110th an­niver­sary of the birth of Deng Xiaop­ing at the Hong Kong Con­ven­tion and Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre on Thurs­day.

PHOTO BY XIN­HUA

Nian Guangjiu at one of his shops in Wuhu, An­hui prov­ince.

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