In the mid 1800’s China faced a growing debt with England as a result of opium addiction. Officially opium had been banned by the emperor but corrupt officials continued to allow the drug into the country for the right price. The problem was not only destroying the fabric of Chinese society, but the empire itself.
Finally in 1838 a man with an impeccable reputation for being impervious to bribes was sent to deal with the illegal imports, his name was Lin Zexu. Not only was he effective in limiting the amount that entered the country, but was also adept at seizing it from warehouses. In 1839 he managed to destroy more than 2.5 million tons of opium, and wrote a letter to the Queen of England demanding she stop the trade of this “poison.”
The result of his noble efforts? The first Opium war, which forced China to sign a number of treaties that left them weak for nearly a century.
Nevertheless Lin Zexu is considered a role-model for being an upright an incorruptible official, which was a rare commodity in the 1800’s too.
With Lin Zexu in mind, allow me to introduce to you a man I consider to be the modern version, Mr. Li.
He is the son of a former provincial leader, married to a woman in a key gov’t position, and has a personal connection with Hu Jintao (the current leader of China), and yet he never abuses his power.
Generally school leaders of Mr. Li’s rank would require their subjects to greet them in an incredibly formal manner, they would have a driver take them to every meeting in a new black Audi or Cadillac, and they would use their influence to ensure their own personal wealth.
He is none of those things, and because of that he is one of the few leaders I have met that I have a deep respect for.
I used to work at his school and found that he was personally involved with helping to rebuild schools in Tibetan areas, building greenhouses that provide better nutrition to poor children, and helped organize training events for rural “barefoot Doctors”. All of this without seeking any personal benefit or promotion.
The only time he ever mentioned his connection to Hu Jintao was in order to get local officials to co-operate on a project in Hunan province that brought financial assistances to the hundreds of people infected with AIDS.
In a country currently racked with scandals, protests, and a long history of corruption, I’m slightly relieved to know that there are men like Mr. Li who still believe in the ideals of communism, in that they actually work to bring about a more equitable society.
Mr. Li’s service has been done quietly in a way that is incredibly rare today in China, which is why I felt that he deserved recognition on my blog. He continues to work for the greater good of the people of Sichuan and China.
I hope if you know more men like Mr. Li you will share more about them in the comments section.