Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Success through adaptation

Darwin claimed that biological success went, not to the strongest, but to the most adaptable. The same might be true for success in China.

Zhang Tiesheng: from leftist hero to China's latest multi-millionaire
Even after three decades of rapid economic growth and capitalist frenzy, few stories encapsulate China's rush from Mao to the market as well as Zhang Tiesheng's.

The leftist hero of the Cultural Revolution - who protested as a student against "capitalist" exams - has become a multi-millionaire, Chinese media reported, after the company he co-founded went public.

The 63-year-old is a major shareholder in and honorary vice-president of Wellhope Agri-Tech, an animal feed and food processing business that went public on Wednesday. The Beijing Morning Post estimated his wealth at 189m yuan (£18m or $30m).

Zhang was just 22 when he hit national attention in 1973, after he wrote a letter to leaders on the back of his college entrance paper, excoriating the examination as a return to the capitalist model of education…

By all accounts, his zealous defence of revolutionary standards was preceded by some difficulty with the questions on the paper: reportedly, he managed to answer just three. But he argued that his hard labour in the fields had prevented him from studying and attacked "bookworms who ignored their proper occupations" and craved college for their own selfish benefits…

Zhang, from Liaoning province, became a campaigner and role model and was later admitted to a farming college, majoring in animal husbandry and veterinary science.

But he was jailed after the end of the Cultural Revolution, in the crackdown on leftists, and released only in 1991…

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