In 1977 China was emerging from a famine in which tens of millions died. The country lacked the skilled professionals a developed society needs, from accountants to lawyers, and its universities had been shut for a decade.
That year it reopened them to offer 150,000 places. More than five-and-a-half million aspiring students applied. Among them was Zhang Wei, who won a place at the country’s top institute of higher education, Peking University. He was later appointed head student.
Zhang Wei’s for