These school children in Yanglia Gou have been allowed to come out of their cave classroom for the special treat of seeing foreigners, namely the several university students who accompanied me to this village. Like the villagers, we slept in caves rented from villagers. The caves on the upper right are abandoned. Caves last only about a decade or so. However, they are cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The bed is a stone platform across the rear of the cave and the entire family sleeps on that platform. There is a fireplace under it and a flume to carry away smoke.
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. From 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, “What’s your unit?” 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. 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 1970’s and 80’s, we’d 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