Becoming 'Best': Wu Tingxin's story

Wu Tingxin's hometown, Eternal Wealth County, didn't live up to its name.

"It's a pretty backward village," he says.

There's wasn't much to keep the 26-year-old home, raising pigs and rice with his parents in a hardscrabble, mountainous region of impoverished Jiangxi Province.

Pushed by his parents, he attended high school, even though it meant living in a different village far from home. He even earned a two-year college degree in accounting.

Problem was, when he graduated in 1996, there was no work.

A friend helped him land an office job in a Japanese-owned factory here in Shenzhen. The boss was a tyrant, says Mr. Wu, but the pay was good enough to hold out for two years.

When he started at the Kong Tai factory, he was asked to pick an English name.

His choice? Best.

"My name means if I'm on a team, I'll work hard to make it the best," he explains.

He works in the sneaker-development office, helping with design and figuring out how to improve the manufacturing of the shoes. The task suits him. Wu is a keen sports fan, and dons a bright-yellow basketball jersey to shoot hoops whenever he gets the chance.

Wu also says he takes pride in the Reebok product he helps create. That his best work is marketed abroad under an American brand name - and at prices he cannot afford - doesn't bother Wu.

It's all a matter of relative strengths, he says. The United States has money. China has people.

"In China, some areas are developed, but it will take time to get the entire country rich. It's not easy. It'll take time."

Wang Yingjun, a young woman in the plant, echos Wu's pride in the product. And she articulates what many here seem to feel.

"One day, we can overtake the United States," she says. "Maybe one day Americans will work to make shoes for me."

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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