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People's Daily Online>>China Society

The Chinese dream - illusion or reality?

By Alexander Schwabe (Shanghai Daily)

10:46, November 22, 2011

Zhang Liyong and Jia Zuosheng are living proof that dreams sometimes come true. After dropping out of school when his parents could not pay the fees, Zhang left his rural home to eke out a living as a migrant worker in Beijing.

At 21 he got a job as a cook at China's renowned Tsinghua University. He took advantage of this position by studying English. For eight years, woke up every day at 4am to study vocabulary and grammar before working eight or nine hours in the kitchen. In the evenings he continued his studies from 7pm until midnight.

At 29, he passed the Test of English as a Foreign Language -- not an easy feat even for full-time students.

Jia also grew up in a rural area and had to leave school because his parents couldn't afford it. He held down various jobs, scratching out a living and hoping to study.

His lucky break came when he signed on as a security guard at Tsinghua University. He was tasked with observing the library, and he read and sat in on lectures every chance he got.

At the age of 27, he passed the national exam required for entrance to an accredited university. He enrolled in college in Shandong, his home province.

These stories of everyday heroes can be read as modern fairy tales about the transformation from a frog into a prince, or in these cases, the transformation from a worker to an intellectual.

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