A tugboat shepherds six barges with quarried stone to urban building sites downstream on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. It 1979, everyone in China was organized like an army and assigned to units. In China, as in any army, everything is organized around a unit and nothing exists outside a unit.ÊFrom 1949 to 1979, everyone and every activity were organized into a Danwei, or unit. No matter what you sought to do, whether to buy socks in a store or buy train tickets, the first question you were asked is, ÒWhatÕs your unit?Ó A unit upstream would be assigned by the government with the task of breaking up stones in a rock quarry and loading them on to barges. The barges would belong to another unit that would have many barges in its command. The unit would be tasked with the responsibility of hauling cargo. The rock unit would pay the barge unit, just like a business would in a capitalist economy. The buyer of the stones would be the construction unit in the city and they would pay the rock unit. Ê But unlike private companies in a Capitalist country, a China unit does not have to make a profit because the government runs things. You can see what this leads to. So if a hotel is full of guests, the employees have to work hard making beds, cleaning rooms, etc. If the hotel is empty, everybody can sit around and drink tea, smoke and read the newspaper. Either way, the employees get the same pay because the hotel can be indifferent to the profit and loss ledger. Very often in the 1970Õs and 80Õs, weÕd be told that there were no rooms when in fact the hotel was near empty. The great weakness of the Chinese Socialist System was the lack of material incentives. When China opened up to the western world in 1979, tourists began streaming in wearing good shoes, carrying expensive cameras and spending wads of money. Chinese citizens began questioning as to why their Socialist system and all the Socialist countries in the world were so much poorer than the Capitalist coun
A long string of barges are towed around a bend in the canal town of Suzhou while two stinky barges convey night soil from the town to the outlying farms. This is part of the Grand Canal that began in 600 CE and which is now the world’s longest man-made waterway. Needing to cross many rivers of varying levels, the solution was to develop water locks many centuries before their appearance in Europe.