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Dream Started 50 Years Ago in That Faraway Place

Armed with lofty ideals and with national interests in mind, hundreds of thousands of people left their hometowns in the interior of China and set out west to Xinjiang in the 1950s.

In 1954, a total of 105,000 army officials and soldiers were transferred to local civilian work to organize the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.

Independent of the establishment of national defence forces, the missions of the corps were to carry out both production and militia duties, and cultivate and guard border areas.

A large number of young people moved to Xinjiang in response to appeals by the government.

"I was encouraged by revolutionary heroism to come to Xinjiang," said Jin Maofang, 72, one of the first female tractor drivers in the corps.

"Before arriving in Xinjiang, I had been prepared for a tough life here. I thought I would not fear any difficulty, or even death," she said.

Jin left her hometown Jining of East China's Shandong Province in August 1952.

Although the then 19-year-old girl thought she was fully prepared, she was still shocked on the long journey.

"I travelled for a month and three days, first by train and then on a truck. The scenery was more and more wild. I was more and more worried," she said.

"I thought I would possibly never be able to go back home when the truck was passing the endless desert," she said.

Zang Rihui, 68, from Shenyang of Northeast China's Liaoning Province, was invited by the Xinjiang Tebian Electric Apparatus Stock Company (TBEA) to work for it as a senior expert.

He first arrived in Urumqi in 2002 after a flight lasting five and a half hours. Then he travelled for 40 minutes by car to Changji, where the company is based.

The Xinjiang firm has one of the largest transformer production capacities in the world and is the largest transformer, wire and cable research, manufacturing and export company in China.

"It seems that Xinjiang is a far, faraway place. But as you see, I arrived here only in half a day," he said.

"The environment is excellent here. The sky is blue and air is fresh. I think I fell in love with Xinjiang before arriving at the company," Zang said.

But half a century ago, 19-year-old Jin was shocked when she arrived at the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.

"It was midnight when I arrived. Someone shouted: 'You are home!'" she recalled.

"But when I looked around there was no house on the bare ground.

"They told me the house was underground."

Jin was introduced to pit dwelling, which is a basic sort of residence, though highly practical.

"Although it is simple and crude, it could resist sandstorms. It is warm in winter and cool in summer," Jin explained.

Zang was also shocked when he arrived, but not because of the basic standards of living. He was amazed by the beautiful and well-arranged city of Changji.

"The house for me and my wife is spacious. The conditions are even better than where we lived in Shenyang," he said.

The engineer was also surprised by the greenery in his district and the smiles on the faces of local residents.

"It is really comfortable," he said.

Although the living conditions experienced by Jin and Zang are so different, their working attitude is the same.

"In the chilling winter, I once used my lips to warm a carburettor. The skin was even hurt by this," Jin recalled.

"We were encouraged by revolutionary spirit. We competed with each other to see who performed better. I spent every day happily. I felt that my life was useful at that time," she said.

Jin was rewarded as a model worker.

"I never expected my hard work could bring me property. I believe the work made my life valuable. It proved that I am a qualified constructor for Xinjiang," she said.

Just like Jin, Zang felt so energetic in Xinjiang. He worked at the former Shenyang Transformer Corporation, a traditional, large State-owned enterprise.

"You won't know how difficult it was to achieve some goals at the former State-owned company under the old management system," Zang said.

Low efficiency and a dilatory working style were constant headaches for Zang.

"But here, at the Xinjiang-based, listed company, many of my suggestions are adopted by Zhang Xin, chairman of the TBEA board committee," he said.

"A gentleman will die for one who appreciates his worth. Can I still have other desires?" the engineer asked.

"Many employees at TBEA are young people. They all work conscientiously. I know they may lack experience but that is exactly the reason why I am here," he said.

Zang's previous employer, the Shenyang Transformer Corporation, merged with TBEA in 2003.

The deficit of the corporation ran to 100 million yuan (US$12 million) at that time. But a miracle occurred once it became part of TBEA.

Only a year later, sales at the Shenyang section of TBEA reached 680 million yuan (US$84 million) and profits reached 43 million yuan (US$5 million).

(China Daily September 30, 2005)

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