By Zhao Guangming
In the early 1980s, I was in my 30s and worked in a construction company. As I was young, strong, and honest and had a perfect mastery of building technology, I believed that I would surely be able to accomplish something in the company and live a life better than others’ as long as I was conscientious in my work. I worked in this company for several years, but I was puzzled that although my behavior was faultless and my technical level was unquestionable, my efforts were not approved, for my grade on the pay scale had always been Grade III, which was far from Grade VI, the top of the pay scale of the company for the staff. Seeing my junior workmates inferior to me in technical level were all promoted on the pay scale, I felt so confused. Later, a workmate who was on good terms with me gave me advice with a smile, “The most important thing for you to do in this company is to have a close relationship with the manager. At least you should show regard for him at every festival and at New Year.” When I knew this, I felt very annoyed, for I disliked those bootlickers and detested those who didn’t labor but could be promoted on the pay scale by fair means or foul. But in order to establish myself in the company, I had to adapt to this hidden rule. At New Year, I showed my “regard” for the manager of our company, and he immediately promoted me to foreman.
After I became a foreman, I took the responsibility of the job more seriously. I exercised a close supervision over and gave strict instruction in the building of the projects and the construction quality, and cared for the safety of the team members all the time. My behavior and technical instruction won the approval of all the team members. So I thought that the company would approve of me and put me in an important position because of my endeavors. However, the reality countered my conception, for the reappointment of a person as foreman in the company was determined by the value of the gift that he sent to the manager. So, as I had experienced such a rule of survival last time, I complied with it again in order to continue to survive in the company. I gained a profound understanding of the real meaning of the phrase “survival of the fittest in natural selection.”
Later, with the implementation of the policies of reform and opening to the outside world, massive development and construction began to take place everywhere. Our company started to implement the policy of letting individuals contract for projects. And thereafter all the construction teams vied with each other all the more in giving dinners and gifts in order to contract for projects. Once the news came that some unit had a project, the foremen would fight to grease the wheels and send gifts to the head of the unit. Trying not to offend the good taste of the leader of each unit, the gift-givers really racked their brains. Some even packed the gift of money into the belly of a fish, and others into that of a roast chicken or duck. Some gave cash, and others gave gold jewelry, diamond rings, or many other things. I also drifted with the current, and at last I contracted for a project with difficulty. But when we were ready to begin the construction, the leaders of the bureau of construction, the bureau of quality supervision, and the institute of design all came to “supervise and direct the work.” They said that there were many problems and many things not up to standard on the construction site. They inspected the site all morning and did not permit us to begin the construction. At noon, I had to invite them to have lunch in an expensive restaurant, which cost me a few thousands of yuan. After lunch, I gave each one of them a red envelope, with 2,000 yuan or 5,000 to 10,000 yuan in each. Then they gave the approval and allowed us to begin the construction. After the commencement of works, these supervisory and administrative departments regularly delegated some people to supervise the construction quality. They came to our construction site not so much for the routine performance of their official duty as for the extortion of my wealth. Every time they “patronized” our construction site, I had to revolve around them entertaining them with good food and drinks, and then gave them red envelopes. During the construction, the leaders of these supervisory and administrative departments also tried to invite me to go to the shopping mall with them for some reason or other. After they chose some fancy clothes of famous brands, I had to pay the bill for them. Sometimes they even told me that they were short of money recently and asked me to give them some money to spend. To be honest, at that time, I just swallowed my grievances in silence and felt as if riding a tiger that would be hard to dismount. But I had no other choice! In order to progress the project without any bother, I had to hold back my anger silently and keep them company like this. During those days, besides busying myself with the work on the construction site, I had to accompany these leaders to various debauchery social places. Later, I got stomach trouble and hypertension because of indulging in excessive drinking over a long period of time, and I really suffered unspeakably. The most painful thing was that when the project was completed, I didn’t earn much money after the various expenditures were deducted.
Faced with such a hard life, I thought, “Why is it so difficult to earn an honest penny by relying on my technical ability? Why are the leaders of the departments of the state system so corrupt and crafty?” I felt quite helpless. I failed to make much money from the first project I contracted for, but I was not disheartened. In order to make more money in the future and lay a foundation for furthering my career, I could only pin my hope on establishing a good relationship with these leaders. But little had I expected that by doing so I completely sank into the mire of sin, getting into a hopeless situation.
In 1992, I contracted for a project in the city through a lot of trouble. It was estimated that I would make some money after the project was completed. Just when I was filled with ambition and making the preparation for the commencement of the project, the manager of my company told me to build a villa for each of the four municipal government leaders, and he said that it was an opportunity for me to advance my career, and that working for the municipal leaders would ensure me good opportunities to make money and a happy life. I was so naive as to take his words to be true and set my hope completely on these men of influence. I got a loan from a bank and borrowed some money from my relatives and friends and began to build villas for them. When the villas were nearly built, the commission for discipline inspection of the higher level came to inspect. Not only had I spent money building the villas for the municipal leaders, but also I had to ease the situation to cover up for them. But my endeavors to help them to escape the net of justice were futile in the end, and all of them were dealt with by the inspecting authority according to law for suspected graft and corruption. Thus I failed to carry out the wonderful plans I had made painstakingly. The villas were confiscated before they were completed, and this left me several hundreds of thousands of yuan in debt. I was really like a dumb man swallowing a bitter pill; I had to suffer in silence.
In desperate straits, I had to pin my hope on contracting for other projects to pay the debts. Thus, I began to do the things that I had never done and hated the most since I entered the construction industry—to do shoddy work and use inferior materials. Instead of using the steel products of national standard, I used the inferior ones, and I also reduced the number of reinforced bars from 6 to 4, thus diminishing the cost of the steel products by a third. I also cut down on the amount of the cement. In this way, I could reduce investment outlay on the project. To be honest, every time when I had completed a project like this, I was on tenterhooks for fear that serious quality problems would emerge. Every day I lived in an abyss of misery. Especially when I heard the news that some jerry-built projects in different places had caused losses to the lives and property of many residents, my conscience pricked me. I often had nightmares, and even when it thundered, I was afraid that I would be punished by Heaven. Also, my hypertension came back again. I was afflicted by dizziness, headache, and insomnia. I was tormented physically and mentally and felt as if living in a human hell. In this way, I lost myself in the current of the world and got bogged down deeper and deeper in the mire of sin. But never had I expected that when a project was half constructed, the unit it belonged to breached the contract and kept defaulting on the payment. The bank loan was already not enough for me to pay the workers’ salaries, so I had no choice but to get usurious loans to pay the workers’ salaries. Through many troubles I came to know that that unit had been in debt for a long time and could not at all afford to construct it. The project fell through, and I was in a terrible fix and didn’t know how to wind the matter up. I was overcome by despair, exhausted. At the time, I learned that a foreman of a company, a project contractor, committed suicide by hanging himself for being unable to repay the large loans that he had got to consecutively contract for projects over several years. At the news, I suddenly felt that I was also standing at the gate of hell, and I had no courage to go any further. Thereafter, creditors came one after another to demand payment of debts. Some of them even lay on our beds, refusing to leave. At that time, I went crawling to them, and lost face completely. Even my closest relatives and friends turned their backs on me for fear that I would not repay their money. Thinking that I had rushed and busied about for these few years, but instead of making some money, I was tired out physically and mentally and had outstanding loans of several hundreds of thousands of yuan, I looked to the sky and sighed heavily, “Heavens! I have a hard life! Enough of me! I really don’t want to live anymore!”
Just when I was hovering around the gate of hell, the of God came upon me. Only after that did I know that man is ruled by God. Because I had God, I felt there was hope in life. I read these words of God: “Today, since I have led you to this point, I have made fitting arrangements, and have My own aims. If I were to tell you of them today, would you truly be able to know them? I am well acquainted with the thoughts of man’s mind and the wishes of man’s heart: Who has never looked for a way out for themselves? Who has never thought of their own prospects? Yet even though man is possessed of a rich and prismatic intellect, who was able to predict that, following the ages, the present would turn out as it has? Is this really the fruit of your own subjective efforts? Is this the payment for your tireless industry? Is this the beautiful tableau envisaged by your mind? If I did not guide all mankind, who would be able to separate themselves from My arrangements and find another way out? Is it the thoughts and wishes of man that have brought him to today? Many people go their whole lives without having their wishes fulfilled. Is this really because of a fault in their thinking? Many people’s lives are filled with unexpected happiness and satisfaction. Is this really because they expect too little? Who of the whole of mankind is not cared for in the eyes of the Almighty? Who does not live in the midst of the Almighty’s predestination? Whose birth and death come from their own choices? Does man control his own fate?” (“The Eleventh Utterance”). The words of God filled my heart and mouth with conviction and caused me to realize this: Man’s fate is indeed not controlled by his own hands! All these years I have planned and prepared for my future, but I have accomplished nothing as I wished. Over the recent few years, I have been intent on earning more money and living a life better than others’. Yet not only have I earned nothing, but I have thrown in a lot of money in vain. Worse still, I, a respectable man, have got into such a sorry plight, which I never expected. I have worked hard for my future time and again, but why have I always ended up with failure? Now I know it is because my fate is not controlled by my own hands but was predestined by God. I had a deep conviction that these words are the words of God. So I could not help but cry to God from my heart, “O God! It turns out that the fate of man and his birth and death are all controlled by Your hands. I am in such a situation today; this was also predestined by You and is ruled by You. Only under such circumstances can I come before You. O God! I am grateful to You for saving me from the jaws of death and giving me the courage to live. I am willing to submit to Your arrangement for the life journey I should walk in the future.”