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The line forms ... where?
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The black-and-white photo contains a scene that used to be very familiar to all Chinese households but is hardly seen today, especially where the photo was taken in 1982.

It was in Shanghai, now the largest modern business center in the Chinese mainland. But back then, right in the middle of the town, amid the 19-century-style wooden buildings, residents in the would-be most glamorous city in China were lining up patiently, if not obediently, to get their monthly ration of rice - in front of, as the Chinese characters read, the State-owned No 72 Grain Shop in (Shanghai's) Nanshi district.

It was a rather cold day; the people with their chilled hands tucked in their pockets or in their sleeves. But the line was long, extending beyond China Daily photographer Wang Wenlan's lens. And naturally, nobody was happy or chatting with each other to amuse themselves. What a typical day in China's pre-reform consumer life!

In contrast, as seen in the color photo taken at the Beijing Sam's Club, the rice supply in the Chinese market has been abundant in the reform era. From 1978 to 2006, China's annual grain output changed from 305 million tons to 500 million tons, or an increase of some 60 percent.

(China Daily October 24, 2008)


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