transformation of Communist Chinese society based on the work unit system, which, as described by Amy Hanser, served the function of "both social welfare and governance" (see Link, page 191).
In contrast to the political movement that encouraged people to "Learn from " to be frugal and selfless (click on the link to see the posters), even in the midst of those pre-1976 political movements, including the Cultural Revolution, people never really became "selfless," according to Susan Shirk. In fact, students "adapted their behavior to the structure of opportunities and the rules of the game" (Link, page 192). In other words, if the rules of the game were that you need to implicate friends and beat up capitalist-roaders to be promoted, then some people would do it to advance their careers. Social and political structures are extremely important because they can channel human ambitions to different ends, positive or negative. The Athenian political system of direct political participation enabled its citizen to make maximum use of his potential, something not achievable under many other political systems. The market economy, in its first years viewed with uncertainty by college graduates who were used to a life dependent on the state, soon proved to be very attractive although also frustrating and challenging to many. With the market economy and fresh opportunities to find jobs that one wants to do comes a sense of self-realization through one's own choice, something quite different from the Lei Feng Spirit (the desire to simply be a "screw" on the socialist machine) or the spirit of "serving the people" as championed by Mao (see Link, pages 194 and 196-97).
The economic reform brought about dramatic economic developments and also a dramatic rise in prices. The rationing system was abolished and prices were allowed to float according to the market. This situation led to an adaptation of a Maoist slogan. The original slogan exhorted people to cut back on their material needs and hope for the future: "The whole country should look forward (quan guo ren min xiang qian kan)." Now, the sentence reads the same but a word is changed. "Qian," a sound that stands for many words (typical of the Chinese language which has many words with identical pronunciation), can mean both forward and money. Now, the slogan reads "The whole country looks toward money." Material wealth, discouraged under the Communist system, becomes a high goal of pursuit. Many of the newly rich did not even know how to spend their money. They showed off wealth sometimes by burning hundred-yuan bills and breaking expensive bottles of cognac. China had increasing numbers of "ten thousand yuan households," which were lauded by the state, and eventually, with inflation and a rise in income, ten thousand yuan changed from an astronomical figure to a much less insignificant sum of money—with the growth of inflation, economic development and wage adjustments, that amount went from being out of reach for most people to suddenly being obtainable. Millionaires became the new heroes of the era. In recent years, the Communist Party wanted to cement their rule by attracting millionaires to join the party and to participate in local and provincial governments. The majority of the millionaires, however, have their highest degrees only from primary or junior high school. This fact contrasts with the people interviewed by Amy Hanser, many of whom are college graduates and pay more attention to job satisfaction as well as money, instead of simply making a lot of money (see Link, pages 196-97).