King of carving
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Most members of the new moneyed class, therefore, are snugly tied to China's exclusive political party, despite its legacy of anticapitalism. They have derived political power from business skill and wealth instead of revolutionary ardor or working-class background.Skip to next paragraph
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The small group of emerging merchants and capitalists are as dependent on officialdom as their predecessors in pre-revolution China. Like those earlier business magnates, they have not built industrial and entrepreneurial power free of government control.
Consequently, like other members of China's nouveaux riches, Zhang must continually cultivate the favor of his communist patrons. He confronts the absurd task of reconciling his growing personal riches with the communist ideal of eliminating private property.
Zhang tries to soften envy over his wealth by sharing it, delivering philanthropy with high-minded socialist rhetoric. Last April, he donated $293,000 to charities. In 1986, he built a seven-story science center for the local junior high school.
In leisure, however, his tastes are distinctly plutocratic. He hunts for wild boar and pheasant in nearby hills and plays billiards in the penthouse of his headquarters. He has sent his oldest daughter to Shanghai for schooling, owns eight cars, and has asked the province for permission to purchase a helicopter.
Unable to hide his wealth, Zhang has received threats and retains a kung fu champion and two other bodyguards skilled in martial arts.
Other Chinese entrepreneurs also fear for their safety. After the murder of a model reformist hotel manager in Shenyang in July, the Chinese Entrepreneurs' Association released a statement saying, ``As the reforms depend [on us] we are the focus of all kinds of conflict.
``We face every kind of obstacle: illegal slanders, threats and injury,'' the association said. Moreover, a recently enacted law that legitimizes entrepreneurs and their firms ``lacks effective measures and concrete regulations,'' it said.
Communist leaders have done little more to ease the class tension between haves and have-nots than to urge entrepreneurs to seek the protection of the law. They say such conflict is inevitable during the long, ``first stage of socialism,'' in which wealthy private businessmen help build the economy to a level sufficient for a smooth transition to a communist Utopia.
Within the walls of his factory complex, Zhang appears to give his workers little cause for resentment. He drives himself from building to building and often wears nothing more ostentatious than a T-shirt.
Workers call Zhang simply ``lao ban,'' or ``boss,'' an accolade that disappeared during the Maoist era because of class overtones. He trains them in carving and gives them subsided housing, child day care, lunch, haircuts, a movie twice a week, and a daily cookie.
Attending so thoroughly to his workers' material needs, the self-made tycoon with just a grade school education keeps communist ideological training to a minimum.
Zhang said that at Yujiang, unlike many other Chinese factories, there is no strife between the party secretary, who upholds education in communist dogma, and the factory manager, who tends the bottom line.
With a deep laugh Zhang said, ``Yes, we have a Communist Party secretary here - me.''
Next: While some grow rich, poverty persists for Chinese battling drought and hunger on the vast northwestern plateau.