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“Fool” Nian Guangjiu: A Little Man in a Great Era

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Winter is the season of withering, and 2023 especially.

These days, it is not uncommon to see a lot of obituaries, from ordinary people to elites. However, as the Spring Festival approached, the circle of friends swiped the screen collectively, no matter how high or low, it was for an old man who sold melon seeds, and he was Nian Guangjiu.

Who is Nian Guangjiu?

Under the names of “China’s No. 1 Vendor”, the founder of “Fool’s Melon Seeds”, and the first batch of self-employed individuals who earned 1 million yuan, Nian Guangjiu’s original face is somewhat blurred.

Some people say that he was born in 1940, while others say that he was born in 1937. In addition to Nian Guangjiu, his name is also said to be Nian Guangjiu. To Nian Guangjiu, “I don’t know a lot of Chinese characters” is not an adjective, but a fact. It is said that he can only write his own name and the word “agree”.

He was born in Huaiyuan, Anhui. He followed his parents to flee the famine to beg for food and went to Wuhu further south. When he was a teenager, he went to the streets to sell fruits, melon seeds and other things. The so-called “fool” is actually because he followed his father’s teachings, allowing customers to taste before buying, and even give an extra serving when the portion is full. Everyone thinks he is stupid. But this idea of ​​letting customers take advantage of it does not prevent his business from growing bigger and bigger. By the early 1980s, he even employed more than 100 helpers under the trademark of “Fool’s Melon Seeds”.

In today’s words, Nian Guangjiu is not only an entrepreneur, it can be said that the earlier group of people with “IP” awareness closely linked his personal brand with the company. However, at that time, he turned out to be an outlier in the political and economic torrent. Most typically, he employed more than 100 people, far exceeding the definition of exploitation at the time. Marx’s classic thesis was that “when the number of employees reaches eight, it is not an ordinary individual economy, but capitalism and exploitation.”

So, does hiring a worker count as exploitation? How many employees count? Is Nian Guangjiu taking the road of capitalism? Arguing whether hiring 8 people is considered exploitation is as far away as the middle ages arguing about how many angels can stand on the tip of a needle for today’s young people, but at that time it was a matter of life and death, and even made the Anhui Provincial Party Committee write A report was delivered to Deng Xiaoping. The great man waved his hand and gently lifted the matter, “Don’t move, just let it go and take a look.”

With just a few words, Nian Guangjiu was able to escape from birth.

Herald of an Era of Change

Frankly speaking, Nian Guangjiu is still being commemorated today. In essence, he accurately represented the spirit of the times at that time: seeking change, seeking wealth, and seeking the market.

After Deng Xiaoping, he mentioned him more than once, “Some time ago, the employment issue was quite shocking. Everyone was very worried. My opinion is to wait for two years. Will it affect our overall situation? If you As soon as it is moved, the masses will say that the policy has changed, and people’s hearts will be uneasy. If you solve a foolish melon seed, it will affect people’s unrest, which is of no benefit. Let the foolish melon seed run for a while, what are you afraid of, will it hurt socialism?”

It can be seen that Nian Guangjiu’s luck lies precisely in the change of the times and its influence. He is not a person or a company, but a symbol of the rise of China’s market economy between savage growth and reckless rivers and lakes.

The 1980s was Nian Guangjiu’s highlight moment, and his name is closely linked with the 1980s. In a sense, Nian Guangjiu is actually not very different from most Chinese who “get rich first” at that time: he was born in a humble family, and started business in order to eat and eat, but because of this, he walked in the gap between the old and the new rules, and lived and died. In between, broke into a new world. As time goes by, he is gradually forgotten, but whenever people look back on that period of history, they will always mention him again. This may be the meaning of a benchmark.

Similar to the fool Nian Guangjiu, there is another person who also died in January 2023, that is, Hu Fuming, the main author of “Practice is the only criterion for testing truth” and former professor of philosophy at Nanjing University. For this article, there are very few people who can explain the ins and outs clearly today, but this article can be said to have dispelled many invisible restrictions shrouded in the invisible space at the time, allowing many people to start bold and free discussions.

How important was Hu Fuming? Perhaps a plot revealed by Professor Du Junfei of Nantah University can be used as an illustration. Once, Nantah University had an authority in the science department who looked down on the liberal arts, saying that “the liberal arts are nothing more than a few manuscript papers.” At that time, the vice president of the liberal arts department retaliated, “Without the few manuscript papers of Hu Fuming from the liberal arts department, I am afraid you will not even have the opportunity to do scientific research.”

It can be seen that what Nian Guangjiu practiced was the loosening of the economy, while what Hu Fuming called for was the loosening of the mind. It can be said that different routes lead to the same goal.

The cries of little people count

In recent years, we have not only experienced economic slowdown and changes in the epidemic, but also social changes, and this process is the most reflective, what is the most important factor: a well-functioning society requires the joint maintenance of different classes of people.

From my own point of view, my understanding of reform and opening up has also changed. I belong to the generation that grew up after the reform and opening up. Therefore, the era of reform and opening up has run through my growth, and I have become accustomed to the market economy. I naturally think that I understand the importance of reform and opening up, but because of lack of experience in life before reform and opening up, my understanding is more rational than emotional.

For example, from time to time, when I see my respected teachers and friends mourn those benchmark figures of reform and opening up (similar to peers like Nian Guangjiu and Hu Fuming). Apart from agreeing on a rational level, I often secretly sigh: Isn’t the situation stronger than people? These people have changed an era, they are nothing more than ordinary little people. Now, my thinking has changed, and I have gradually realized that in the era of change, ordinary people can also make a difference, and even their actions create an opportunity for change.

Indeed, just as Nian Guangjiu’s fate depended on Deng Xiaoping’s few words, and Hu Fuming’s article did not have the approval and promotion of Hu Yaobang, the leader at the time, I am afraid that even if it sees the light of day, the result is hard to say. At least, Hu Fuming himself did it well at the time. He also admitted in the future that “even if I don’t write it, someone will come out.”

However, the reason why history remembers Nian Guangjiu and Hu Fuming probably also lies in their contribution to history as ordinary people. Nian Guangjiu or Hu Fuming seem to be very different, one is far away from the rivers and lakes, and the other is in the temple. The former seems to be a self-employed person who is full of money, and has even been imprisoned several times. The latter has been in the system, from scholars in universities to leaders of provincial party committees, and has repeatedly emphasized the responsibility of scholars. But regardless of their differences, they are also very similar, not to mention that they were all born in poor peasant families, not to mention that the key nodes have been taken care of by big figures, and they have become benchmark figures in the great era, and they themselves are also responsible for the changes of the times. , with all his strength, shouted his first cry.

After these years of reform and resurgence, I have become more and more aware that the so-called reform and opening up process does not just come from the wave of a big man’s hand, lowering his mind, and immediately changing the world. There are too many twists and turns and changes behind such huge social transformations as the reform and opening up. Countless important changes that cannot be seen come from the ordinary actions of these little people, their unremitting efforts and great risks. Raise your arms and let the reform have substance, so that the opening up has results.

From a macro point of view, whether they are called “fools” or “smart people”, “Nian Guangjiu” or “Nianguangba”, may be insignificant pawns, but it is always the ups and downs of the times that determine their fate. However, the voiced and silent appeals and actions of countless Nian Guangjiu will automatically converge into the torrent of the times, and finally make history stop here or even turn around.

Voltaire has a famous saying, which has become popular again in recent years, that is, “in the event of an avalanche, no snowflake is innocent.” However, if we do not regard the avalanche as a frontal breakthrough from Xue’s perspective, then can it be considered that every cry, even if it does not disturb the snowflakes, is worthy of respect, because there is no cry without a cry? The avalanche behind——On the judgment scale of great history, not every cry leaves a name, but every cry counts.Note: This article only represents the author’s point of view. Xu Jin is the author of the currency trilogy and the manager of the public account econhomo. The reader is WeChat ashes-18

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