Remembering China’s Reform and Open Policy on the 30th Anniversary

The article was originally published by SinovisionNet the top Chinese TV network in USA on June 1, 2009 in Chinese



                   30 years ago, after graduating from the Shanghai International Studies University,

                  Fengbo Zhang worked at the Foreign Affairs Office of the Wuhan City Government, 

                 and experienced the unforgettable inauguration of China’s Reform and Open Policy.


1. Fengbo Zhang: From Wuhan into the World

                       Yangtze River Daily, Oct. 27, 1980              
The First Step of the Journey


                              -Special Report on Fengbo Zhang’s path and prelude to his advanced studies in Japan


                                                                                                                                                                       (By Reporter :Zhang Ying)

Late autumn:

This morning a handsome young man wearing a corduroy jacket visited our Newspaper office. He is the translator for the Foreign Affairs Office of Wuhan City, 23-year-old Fengbo Zhang.  Recently, he was admitted to Japan’s Oita University to study modern Japanese literature. Before leaving for Japan, having the intense desire to seek further knowledge, he came to our office to learn the more modern aspects of literary creation.

After I answered his questions, I really wanted to talk in greater depth with this young man.  I looked at his Graduate transcripts from Shanghai International Studies University:

      Written examination:  97 (which was the highest score of the whole graduating class)

      Oral examination:  A+

      Listening examination:  99 (which was the highest score of the whole graduating class)

      2 elective/optional courses - Japanese literature and Japanese Grammar both are A+

        English:  98

He graduated from Shanghai International Studies University with the highest score of his entire class, and is also the first student from the University that has ever been admitted to study in Japan.

“Where were you before attending the University?” I asked.

 “I was working in the Countryside of Jingzhou”. 



  During the Cultural Revolution, after graduating from High School,
 Fengbo Zhang (middle) was sent to work in an impoverished village as a farmer.


“So as an educated youth, you were affected by the decentralization during the Cultural Revelation in China, and as all the universities were closed, were you one of the many high school graduates that were sent to the countryside to work as farmers?”


“How could you study?” “Before you went to the countryside, how did you study at school?”I was curious to understand the road he had thus far traveled, as a way to see what direction his future might hold.

He was born in Jingzhou, Hubei. Jingzhou, China’s famous ancient cultural city, which was steeped in history and legends, and in many ways, appears to have had a strong impact on his childhood.  From an early age, Zhang had an intense intellectual curiosity

 He studied at a vigorous rate independently from early childhood.  While he was still in junior high, he saw a Pharmacist in his father’s hospital that had a University chemistry textbook, and requested to borrow it.  The pharmacist initially looked at him with suspicion, but then indicated, “Ok, you can have it, keep it.   There is no need return it to me, until you are grown up and can finish reading it.”  Several weeks later, Zhang came back to the Pharmacist, and returned the book. When the Pharmacist asked him why he brought it back, Zhang responded that he finished reading it.  The Pharmacist was taken back, but as he still had in his possession the test questions of the books material, he decided to test him instead.  He challenged Zhang to write down specific dictation of the chemical elements, and Zhang wrote down all dictation in one breathHe then asked Zhang to recite the chemical element periodic table, and again Zhang recited it in its entirety. Then the Pharmacist said “I am very happy to have loaned you the book, but I am happy to get it back for my own reference!” 

In the Cultural Revolution, many situations occurred that were beyond comprehension.  During this period, there was a profoundly negative impact on the educational system.  The big-character posters blurted out that there should be no studies, but revolution!  Both dedicated teachers and students with good scores were criticized.  When he was admitted to high school, 15 years old Zhang also became a target of this backlash.  He became involved in advocating for a strong focus on education.  He insisted on continuing his studies as he recognized the need for advanced education to the path of achievement.  At that year’s final examination, his Chemistry, Physics, Mathematic and Foreign language courses earned him the full score of 100 points. There was many smear campaigns against his earned 100 points and he was criticized as a bourgeoisie's seedling!  His teachers finally succumbed to the pressure placed on them and had deducted a point from the 100 points. As the result, this year his full scores for all courses are 99 points. Reduction of this one point saved Zhang from more profound political backlash and criticizism, but also encouraged him to continue in the quest for knowledge.

After going to the Foreign Language University, every summer vacation, Zhang always came back to visit his Alma Mater to see his high school teachers. The Chemistry and Physics teachers think his Chemistry and Physics course are his best, and he should have selected Chemistry or Physics as his choice for college study.  Of course, the Foreign Language teacher happily said, “Your choice is right, as your Foreign Language course was the best.”

 “Little strokes fell great oaks”.  How had Zhang managed to keep all of his class scores so high?  I couldn’t help but ask him, “How did you find the time and energy for your studies?” I additionally asked him, “After being sent to countryside and performing such intense physical labor, did you continue to study?”

 He told me how he treasured the youth, and valued the time he had for his studies. Even in the horrible time of the Cultural Revolution, when he was forced to perform hard labor in the scorching during the day; he ignited an oil lamp to study at night. When he was doing his hardest work of bringing sand to the dike, he still brought a textbook for recitation, during the short breaks.

  Finally, we are also pleased to tell the readers that the 23 years old young man also has passed all examinations with highest honors, and has been admitted to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.   In the interim, he also took an examination for the Graduate School of Guangzhou Foreign Language’s University, and the University twice sent him urgent telegrams asking him to attend. However, he actually could not go there.  In looking at the beginning of his journey, it is clear it is his destiny to travel far and wide in becoming a Sino-Japanese friendship messenger.



During the period of time he studied in Japan, Fengbo Zhang was frequently invited to speak to Chinese government leaders, received the honor of appointment to Section Head of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and was a Research fellow of the State Council Research Center as well as an advisor to the Wuhan City Government. In the photo, he is lecturing for the Wuhan City Government at their headquarters.




2. Fengbo Zhang with Deng Ken – Brother to Deng Xiaoping



My uncle Deng Ken joined the Chinese Communist Party in 1939. He was the only intellectual and highly educated member of our Deng family. He was a reporter, with focus on the cultural news of the day, the deputy mayor of Chongqing City, Wuhan City and the deputy Governor of the Hubei Province. He has since retired in Wuhan. In our childhood, we did not feel that he looked like his brother, as he is tall, and very handsome.  However, now when he sits with my father, we feel he looks just like his brother - Just one is tall, the other is short

                                                                                                                              --From “My Father Deng Xiaoping” by Deng Rong



  Fengbo Zhang and Deng Ken at Wuhan.                                                    Zhang and Deng at Zhongnanhai – China’s White House.

Deng Ken’s inscriptions to Fengbo Zhang and Deng Xiaoping (from right: Deng Xiaoping, Deng Ken, Deng Xiaoping’s wife & daughter)
3. Fengbo Zhang and Wu Guanzheng

This article was for the Conference on Overseas Chinese Pioneering and Development in China, 2002. The conference was organized and held by the State Council on Overseas Chinese Affair Office, the Hubei and Wuhan Governments. After holding posts of Major of Wuhan City, governor of Shandong Province, Wu Guanzheng now joined China’s top leadership  and the head of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. We are grateful that the top Arbiter acted on the original intentions, and held the corrupt officials accountable in service to the Chinese people.


The Yangtze River Daily’s report: “The First Step of the Journey”  made Fengbo Zhang famous in Wuhan. While at the Wuhan City government office, he had many contacts with Wu Guanzheng who was then deputy director of the Science committee, and consequently, Fengbo Zhang has many fond anecdotes of Wu Guanzheng.

In July of 1983, during his studies in Japan, Fengbo Zhang came to visit China with Japanese delegation. In Shanghai, he had a reunion with Wu Guanzheng who had just become the Mayor of Wuhan City.  The Foreign Affairs Office of the Shanghai City Government arranged for them to stay in the Shanghai International Club House, and provided the best Suite for Wu Guangzheng. When Wu Giamgzheng opened the door, he was unhappy: “Why give me so big a suite? I am not going to stay here, please change the room”.

The leader of the Foreign Affairs Office in Shanghai explained: “Shanghai and Wuhan are sister Cities on the Yangtze River. This suite is for Major”.

“Why should the Mayor be so special? I am not going to stay here, please change to a small room”.

In observing this scene, Mrs. Ding Hua, the Director of Foreign Affairs Office of Wuhan, and the wife of Den Keng, attempted to smooth over the situation with Wu Guangzheng: “They have already made many arrangements, with this room as a designated meeting place, so it is perhaps best not to change.  Additionally, you also need to meet foreign guests in here so it is advisable not to change”.

In listening to Ding Hua, Wu Guanzheng turned his eyes to Fengbo Zhang: “Fine, I can stay here, however you use the bedroom inside, and I will sleep on the sofa in the living room outside.”

Fengbo Zhang quickly shook his head: “No, no. This suite is for the Mayor, I am not going to stay here.”

“We should give favored treatment to our foreign studying talent.” Wu said.

“You are a talent from Qinghua University Graduate School.” Zhang argued.

“Stop the argument, it is decided!” Wu said turning his eyes to Ding Hua for assistance. Then, Ding Hua smiled and told Fengbo Zhang: “You know him very well, just do as he has said.”

Based on both Wu’s wishes and his stubbornness on the matter, Fengbo Zhang moved to the luxurious suite, and as he was not familiar with such luxury, or sleeping on such a huge bed, for a long time he just stared at the high ceiling, before he finally fell asleep. However, Wu, in complete comfort on the outside sofa, immediately began snoring!

The next morning, Zhang and Wu went to breakfast. As Zhang walked fast, he arrived in the dining room first.  The Hotel service attendant was waiting at the entrance and warmly introduced Zhang to the setting. After a short while, Zhang heard an commotion at the entrance.  Apparently, Wu was stopped by the attendant: “Stop, halt, what you are doing here?”

 “I have come for breakfast” Wu answered.

“Breakfast? Do you have room card?”

Wu searched his pocket: “No…..”.

Zhang quickly informed the service attendant: “He is our Mayor; the room card is with me.” Zhang then showed the room card to the staff person.

The employee took the card, and looked Wu up and down with suspicion: “Mayor of where?”

 “Mayor of Wuhan City” Zhang answered.

 “Really? We can not permitted to bring non-guests to eat here”

 Zhang took back the room card, and led Wu inside. Meanwhile, the hotel staff person clearly was not convinced of Wu status as an honored guest of the hotel. “Humph, if he pretends to be Wuhan mayor then I am Shanghai mayor”


When leaving, Ding Hua asked Zhang: “What is your impression to Mayor Wu?”

Zhang spoke frankly when he answered: “He looks like the hard-working village head when I was working in the countryside”.

Ding Hua smiled: “You give a good name for Mayor Wu, working hard made him as our Mayor. I am gong to tell Wuhan’s staff”.

Hence, the nickname of “village head” Fengbo Zhang had given Mayor Wu spread over the Wuhan City government compound.

Fengbo Zhang(left) and Wu Guanzheng at the Shanghai                Fengbo Zhang (center) with Wu Guanzheng and Ding Hua
International Club House, special suite.                                     - Deng Xiaoping's sister in law.


Comments by SinovisionNet  Readers


HYSJ wrote:    2009-12-05 12:39:10

This is a good example of Meritocracy- promoting a person based on his quality and talent, not family relationships.  Deng Xiaoping’s selection is correct  


LYYQ wrote:    2009-10-12 05:57:10

If we prefer the talent, then the country can develop in the right direction.


DongFang wrote:   2009-07-01  11:04:01

Sets a good example, make honest government for people.


QiaoLing wrote:    2009-06-09  22:45:53

Though there are many imperfections, there is no ruling party like China to have established such a powerful Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, specialized supervision of their own cadres, and each year punished hundreds of thousands of government officials violating the trust of the people. This is how to win the peoples' hearts and keep long-term stability of the government.


wangyou wrote:   2009-06-06  12:21:08

The reform and open policy, remembers the source of one's happiness.


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