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Dashengzhuang: “too busy to even get a drink of water”

January 9, 2013

konjaku: an excerpt from an article, in which the author goes in search of memorable examples of diligent “common people” who work to uphold or improve society. The section translated here profiles the floating population manager of Dashengzhuang, Wang Zelin. This adds a bit more to a portrait of Dashengzhuang, a village which is a symbol of community transformation management, but also surviving through an interim stage: no longer a traditional village, but not yet fully integrated into the modern, urban ideal of the city either. Perhaps the restlessness of this interim stage is represented in Wang Zelin, depicted here as busy morning to night with “trivial matters, ” as though he is bearing many of the burdens of the current state of affairs.

While going from place to place, being moved by common people, their devotion to their work and life –2012-11-27 Author: Ma Ruoning

My next stop was in Dashengzhuang, where I was to meet Wang Zelin, the official in charge of  management of the floating population and rentals. On a previous trip I had met a handicapped man,  a Mr Gong. When I had asked then about the official who handled these matters, Mr Gong volunteered that Wang Zelin had made it his duty to help him for many years. When Wang Zelin heard that Mr Gong had trouble getting around, every winter he brought him a new coal stove, helped him fix his car, and many other small things, too many to mention. Though Mr Gong was not a friend or a relative, he worried about whether Mr Gong’s children had new clothes or not. What Mr Gong said, in his simple, unadorned way of speaking, depicted a magnificent person. I found out that Wang Zelin on winter days went from house to house dredging out the ventilation lines, on summer days he went from door to door transacting temporary resident permits. His truthfulness,  respect for work, and passion moved me deeply. How could I not find out more about him?

During the several days I followed Wang Zelin around, I found his daily schedule to be very regular and systematic. Every day he gets up at 6 and does some physical exercise.  He says his job is full of small details, and morning exercise is a good way to reduce stress. Right now the weather is still not bad (November). If it was a cold winter day, when everyone is lighting fires in their coal stoves, he would have long since been out on patrol, going door to door.

As a dyed in the wool Dashengzhuang person, Wang Zelin has been affected by all the changes to the village. With community transformation management there was formed a public security squad, and a floating population mangement squad. Inside the village a large screen has been installed that broadcasts news and notices. Trained sanitation workers come every day and clean the village. Members of the floating population must register to go in and out of the village. Speaking of this, Wang Zelin took from his cupboard a number of thick books, which comprised the files and dossiers he had to keep. Every page was loaded down with minute details. It had the layout of every factory and workshop, and a description of every member of every family with their names and ages. Wang Zelin knew all these details like the palm of his hand. While we were talking, there were constantly people coming in to transact some bureaucratic procedure or to inquire about registering. Wang Zelin with the utmost care questioned these people (members of the floating population) and managed to acquire the fundamental information of their circumstances. In spite of the fact that these persons were only there for a few minutes, their information and requests were deeply imprinted in his memory. He said that he had this ability, from being the class monitor at college. His class was large, and his fellow students came from all different places. Therefore he committed them all firmly to memory, leaving no one and nothing out.

Wang Zelin is always humble, simple, and plain. He is not accustomed to praise, and said he is unworthy of it. But do our lives not come together precisely through these small and mundane acts performed by people such as him? In our immediate vicinity, there are so many Wang Zelins who play an important role, who do common and ordinary jobs which are yet irreplacable. Their respect for work makes the village run steadily and keeps the social fabric harmonious.

During the time I spent with Wang Zelin, he was always doing something, shuttling back and forth in the village, with no time to even get himself a drink of water. A great many people today think of going somewhere away from home to look for work. It puzzled me that this person was willing to remain in his village, every day making his rounds through the village multiple times, taking care of all sorts of trivial and minor matters. Not only does he not make very much money for this, but at times he has to do things that will likely offend the neighborhood. Wang Zelin said, “Some of my job is not hard, but it is not easy to do well. The most important thing is to keep in mind whether or not something is a good fit for everyone, whether it is part of my duty or not. There are many additional tasks the people have not requested, which I still carry out. The village has grown large, for the sake of the village folks I have to try some things. The intent is that they become happy.”

Wang Zelin’s workday ends at 10 at night or later, because there are factory workers who work the night shift and don’t come back to the village until late. As the floating population manager, Wang Zelin has to accommodate them.

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