After five hours on a minibus through the Fujian countryside I got off in Shishi and transferred to the back of a three-wheeled two-stroke pickup truck heading to a nearby village. Here I met Old Lin, who would become one of the key subjects of my eight-year long research project on China's village enterprises and local institutions.
Lin is a retired official and remained the village elder. He spoke Minnan, a southern dialect of Mandarin, which is as similar to Taiwanese as a Boston accent is to a Texas accent. I addressed him in my native Taiwanese tongue and he responded as if we were relatives. Contrast this to my experience in rural Suzhou, Jiangsu, it took several years of frequent visits to a small village in Suzhou before I was fully accepted and treated as a friend. I courted an engineer for many years, who confided in me the details of the collectives breaking out from bureaucratic control and developing their own industries; of the party control over all finances and profits; and strict sensors placed on private entrepreneurs. I also heard the stories of how people were cheated out of promised stock options and bonus, and how the village leaders stocked the industries with their
people, keeping profits among the elite circle.