Although he had stayed up late on New Year’s Eve and didn’t fall asleep until after 1 a.m., Chen Yuanming was dragged out of bed by his mother early the next morning.
“Look at the time, you need to get up quickly and wash up!”
Wang Juan spread two quilts on the bed and laid a brand new coverlet over it. Its peony flower pattern was rich and festive and suddenly made the whole room feel bright. New curtains were hung on the rod, the bulbs were replaced with 60-watt overhead lights and the whole family was neatly dressed in new clothes. It was the first day of the lunar New Year and they were waiting for relatives to pay a New Year’s call. How could they appear sloppy.
Taking out leftovers from last night, breakfast was nice and warm. Eating leftovers was not purely for the sake of economy, but the custom was to avoid using a knife on the first day of the New Year and to use “surplus wealth”. After a quick meal, Chen Yuanming busily laid out the fruit plate again, took out melon seeds and peanuts, and waited for their relatives to arrive.
In City L, there was only one family that would normally visit on the first day of the year, and that was Chen Yuanming’s Uncle Wang Tao. Sitting on the bed while watching TV, Chen Yuanming could not help looking at the door every few minutes. So many days after his return he had only just realized that he wanted to see Yuanyuan, his gloomy and self-depreciating cousin, most. Compared to the numbers in his bank account, for him, perhaps this was most intuitive manifestation of the changes in their lives.
Just after 10, o’clock there was a knock on the room door. Chen Yuanming rushed up in three steps and opened it. Standing at the door were two children, one big, one small. The boy was about 12 or 13 years old, and the girl was only about 10 years old. Both children were taken aback after seeing Chen Yuanming. The boy reacted first and yelled “Happy New Year cousin! and then rushed inside.
When he was attacked by this half-sized boy, Chen Yuanming almost lost his footing. Thus, he grabbed the collar of the little rascal and stuffed him in his mother’s arms. Then he turned his head and looked at the little girl, who was still standing at the door with a shy smile.
“Yuanyuan, do you still remember me?” Chen Yuanming squatted slightly and flashed a smile. Not having seen her for two years, the little girl had become more and more refreshing, her eyes were big and round. She had a pair of willow eyebrows of a suitable shade, red lips and white teeth. She also had two little dimples. It need not be said how cute she was.
This little girl didn’t seem to be afraid of people either. She blinked her two big eyes and called out to her cousin sweetly. After thinking about it, she added a Happy New Year greeting. She looked carefree. Where was the dull and gloomy personality of his memories? His heart suddenly became hot, Chen Yuanming reached out and touched the top of the girl’s head, and said softly, “Happy New Year to you too.”
Less than half a minute later, the two adults also entered the house. The TV was turned on and the Spring Festival Gala was being replayed. The family was eating melon seeds and watching TV, while talking and laughing. It’s unknown how the topic turned to the little girl. Wang Tao boasted with pride, “Don’t look at how round and small she is, she is strong. At that time, the re-operation was so hard on her, but she didn’t cry. Despite taking two months off school, her grades have also not fallen. I think she will be admitted to No.1 middle school this time!”
His wife Sun Jiajia also smiled and said, “This is all thanks to the help given by second sister‘s family, otherwise we don’t know how we would have paid for the cost of the operation this time around. Over the past two years, the factory’s profits have improved a little bit. Our salary would be raised, we will pay you back once we have saved enough money!”
How could Wang Juan listen to this, she reigned in her initial excitement and said, “Look at what sister in law is saying, when the old people in our family had to see the doctor back then, we wouldn’t have been able to get through without your help. Whose family was not having a hard time then. Besides, is the tractor factory not going to assign housing this year? I’m sure the team leader will surely be offered one, right? There are so many things to spend money on, so let’s focus on the important matters first. Now our Duoduo is earning income too, so we are not short of money.”
Sun Jiajia absolutely loved hearing this. Back then when they had lent money to second sister’s family, they had also needed to tighten their belts. At that time, she had clashed with her husband on this issue. But looking at it now, second sister’s family had not forgotten them after developing. This was a good relative! Thinking quickly, she grabbed a bunch of melon seeds and put them in the hands of Chen Yuanming who was teasing the little girl. “Yes, that’s right! It’s still Doudou who is good! When you went out to work, who could have imagined that this would happen. Our national leaders have said that we should all go out and open up, but it is still Doudou’s vision that can make money.”
Both the left and right sides were full of flattery, Chen Yuanming laughed, picked up a melon seed, and started nibbling. But things were really different now. Compared to the conservative social atmosphere of 1991, the southern tour was like a real spring breeze, that had caused the country to start budding and growing. According to his parents, dozens of people had resigned from the factory this year. The Guangzhou market no longer consisted of just a lonely department store but was surrounded by rows of small shops. The night market was also full of various small stalls. It seemed that overnight everyone had developed a passion for doing business and they had all begun to run towards a beautiful “money path”.
It was just that although this development had changed some people, most were still content with the status quo. The state-owned enterprises of this era were like giant umbrellas, covering most people’s eyes by satisfying their need for food and clothing. Getting rich, was first an issue of luck and strength but it also required courage and vision. However, neither Chen Yuanming’s parents nor his uncle’s family satisfied these conditions.
Putting down the melon seed shells in his hand, Chen Yuanming sat beside his uncle and did not interrupt the hot chat between his mother and her sister-in-law. He smiled and said, Uncle, the benefits from the ductile iron factory have been good over the past two years, have they not? Since you’ve been promoted to an official position, making a fortune is only a matter of time.”
Wang Tao replied with a smile, “Don’t listen to your Aunt-in-law’s nonsense. It’s true that over the past two years the profit from the tractor factory has been good but that is just within a few branches. It’s already good that an unpopular branch like ours can even maintain its profits. ” The he said in a lowered voice, “But I heard a rumor that within the next two years, the factory intends to prepare for a heavy-truck project. The ones above have deliberately shown that they want to take over this matter, if it can be done, then things will improve.”
However, Chen Yuanming frowned slightly. At present, domestic trucks had gained momentum as a result of reforms. Mature models such as Dongfeng, Jiefang, and Steyr had considerable market share. Other manufacturers like Shaanxi Automobile, Sinotruk, Xugong, etc. were also ready to go. In the next two decades these factories will flourish and will swallow the entire Chinese freight market. Trucks were a business that could make a lot of money, but he had been a freight forwarder in his previous life and a native of L City. How could he not know know that the tractor plant’s truck business will lag behind the established factories and that hundreds of millions in investment would be lost. Coupled with a backward management model the ductile iron factory will stagnate within the next ten years and will not recover.
Entering the truck business at this time was undoubtedly putting one’s future on the line. He recalled that, in his last life, his uncle had stagnated at the position of workshop director of the ductile iron plant and was unable to rise further. Was this the cause?
However, thinking about it, at this time, no one would listen to him should he pour cold water on their plans, thus Chen Yuanming simply smiled.
“That is great but Uncle, dare I say though that working at this ductile iron plant is not as good working at the assembly plant or the diesel engine plant. No matter what type of vehicle is built can it be done without the core? Now that the factory is beginning to divide itself into factions, if the new truck project becomes a separate automobile branch. Are you sure that with your current qualifications you can enter the management route of that new branch?”
For a moment Wang Tao was stunned. Yes, he had never thought about this issue carefully. Now, there were many people who were walking through doorways and doing all they could to be assigned to their branch. Meanwhile he had approached the riverbank without paying attention to his location!!! If he simply depended on his record of service and his network, his qualifications were really insufficient. When the time comes, and he enters the new branch he will only be a small dispatcher and how could that be worth anything.
But this could not be said to his nephew, Wang Tao smiled and said, “according to what you’ve said, this is not a pressing issue at the moment, so why worry so much at this point. It’s fine as long as we are aware of things.”
Chen Yuanming smiled and stopped talking. For some things it was enough to simply be aware of it. As long as his Uncle made a bit of effort, he could go against the current and take himself out of the new branch factory and into the assembly or power department, then he will not be implicated in any subsequent project failures.
In the ductile iron plant, the assembly and power branches were the real core departments. They were also the most profitable departments. If they could become bigger and stronger, it was not impossible for it to disengage itself from the new plant. In the early years, the ductile iron factory’s influence in China was top-notch. Though its business model limited its growth, in terms of its impact and foundation, it did not lose to any emerging company.
“Doudou, don’t just talk about your Uncle.” Sun Jiajia laughed and said. “Your father can also be regarded as a technical pacesetter, yet he has been working in the factory for so long and is still a common worker. In these days you really cannot just bury your head and work hard. You have to keep up with the leaders and develop good relations with them. Are my husband’s skills that good? I don’t think that’s necessarily the case, but he still has to be able to deal with people!
Wang Juan smiled awkwardly, looked at her husband, and sighed softly. She knew that there were countless group leaders and section chiefs who had entered the factory at the same time. Quite a few had even become directors. However, while her husband’s stupid mouth was good at causing offence, it could not please others.
Chen Yuanming also looked at his father, who was sitting at the side and was showing some embarrassment. Since he was old enough to remember, his father had worked overtime. He devoted almost all his energy to work. Working assiduously from dawn to dusk and never complaining. His sense of responsibility and the burden of family had forced him to perfect his skills just so he could get some more overtime allowance. However, due to his rural background and his lack of education, he had lost his basic self-confidence and had instead placed his expectations and his unwillingness on his son, resulting in a recurrent tension between father and son.
If his father could also take a step up to a higher position, will the depression in his heart be cleared up?
Thinking of this, Chen Yuanming laughed, “Yes, dad, now our family is not short of money. Don’t always think about working overtime. We need to take more steps. Buy a gift for the New Year and visit the factory manager or find a way to get in touch with the workshop director. Human relations are always necessary. There is no harm in having more contacts.”
This remark ushered in the unanimous approval of his uncle and aunt-in-law. Listening to the agreement of her younger brother and his wife, even Wang Juan’s heart warmed up. Looking at her husband who was still struggling she secretly came to a decision in her heart. That’s right. It was just a gift and just a new year’s greeting. Nothing bad would happen. Now their family had money, but how was that enough? She also wanted to live in a bigger house and live a better life!
At noon, the family ate lunch in the small room. The traditional hot congee consisted of sautéed fried strips of hairtail fish, meat and vegetable balls, deep-fried sliced meat, mushrooms and tofu all stewed in a pot, then sprinkled with thick pepper and garnished with some vinegar. It was hot and sour, not to mention how visually appealing it was. After the meal, the guests and the hosts were both happy and each of the cousins also received a big red envelope of up to 50 yuan.
Early the next morning, Wang Juan dragged Chen Jianhua out of the house. She took the Wuliangye and some of Chinese specialties that were brought back by her son and bought two large baskets of fruit to pay a new year’s visit to the factory leader’s home. The couple may not have understood the value of the gift they took, but how could the recipient not understand. When they returned home that day, the couple both smiled with joy and seemed to have been treated with respect. Chen Yuanming did not say much, but he had taken out some the goods he had hidden so that his parents could keep up their efforts.
That night, finally lying in bed after two days of hard work, Chen Yuanming’s lingering anxiety seemed to have been relieved by a lot. Although for various reasons, he could not do much for the family at the moment, it was still acceptable to work step by step!
Thinking of the little girl who had sat beside him smiling sweetly, Chen Yuanming flashed a determined smile.
 His mother’s brother
 Referring to Wang Juan, Chen Yuanming’s mother
 Referring to the southern tour of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping at which he announced market reforms.