Luolin's modern heartbeat - entrepreneur Li Shiji
Luolin, China — If there is a modern heartbeat to this remote mountain village, it is Li Shiji. At 6 a.m. he's the first to rise in a household of nearly 20 people. He straightens some of his family's 38 rooms and waters dozens of plants perched on the second-story balcony overlooking his fish ponds.
Then he cranks up an old-fashioned black telephone to raise the night watchman at the village glass bottle factory where he has unofficial responsibilities as founder and general manager.
After breakfast with his family, a stream of relatives and business visitors begins, some of whom come from other parts of China to take up short-term residence in his home.
Local villagers stop by to ask for a job for their children or to borrow money. Friends say this is the price of success.
``Many people come to me for help, to borrow money for a marriage or to build a house,'' said Mr. Li. ``I've loaned out about 10,000 yuan ($2,700). Some pay me back soon. Some haven't. But I've never pressured them.''
Li's remarkable transition from son of a landless peasant to successful entrepreneur and unofficial village leader has come after years of opposition from jealous county officials.
After his father was killed during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), he left his job as a middle school teacher and started a glass bottle factory under license to the village.
He hired local workers to cut glass tubing and mold tiny vials which he then sold to Chinese medicine companies.
He was later forced by officials to abandon his first efforts and the factory closed, but he started again in 1981 with support from the Communist Party.
With an income exceeding 100,000 yuan ($27,000), last year and large personal investments, his family has easily rekindled the clan spirit in their extensive household.
Such prosperity is rare anywhere in China, especially in the hinterland. Average income in the local county of Xinyi is less then 400 yuan ($108) a year.
In 1987, Li's situation seems secure. The Communist Party is now emphasizing economic development instead of class warfare and leftist ideals that have been its focus for years.
His rapport with local officials is evident in their visits to his dinner table.
``I'm not afraid the policy will change again,'' said Li. ``If it doesn't change, I'll continue to develop the factories. If it does, then I'll stop at a certain level and try to keep what we have. But on the whole, I don't think the policy will change.''