Sunday, January 22, 2012

China's Spark

No matter how big the economic, cultural, or technological change they all start with one person who dared to think differently.

From NPR...
"Back then, even one straw belonged to the group," says Yen Jingchang, who was a farmer in Xiaogang in 1978. "No one owned anything."  At one meeting with communist party officials, a farmer asked: "What about the teeth in my head? Do I own those?" Answer: No. Your teeth belong to the collective.

"Work hard, don't work hard — everyone gets the same," he says. "So people don't want to work." 
So, in the winter of 1978, after another terrible harvest, they came up with an idea: Rather than farm as a collective, each family would get to farm its own plot of land. If a family grew a lot of food, that family could keep some of the harvest. 
This is an old idea, of course. But in communist China of 1978, it was so dangerous that the farmers had to gather in secret to discuss it. Despite the risks, they decided they had to try this experiment — and to write it down as a formal contract, so everyone would be bound to it. By the light of an oil lamp, Yen Hongchang wrote out the contract. 
The contract also recognized the risks the farmers were taking. If any of the farmers were sent to prison or executed, it said, the others in the group would care for their children until age 18.

The audio...

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