Over the next two years FRONTLINE cameras follow Feng as conditions grow more tense at work. And, at home, she is increasingly worried about her 16-year-old son, Gu Feng.
"A generation ago, before the reform movement, there was a 5,000-year-old cultural belief that a son must respect his parents," Feng said. "But things are so different with my son."
Like most of his friends, Gu Feng watches NBA games on satellite TV. He listens to Western rock music. Feng is dismayed at her son's lack of discipline and his eager materialism.
"Their generation lived through the Cultural Revolution," Gu Feng explained. "They 'ate bitterness.' They went through a lot while we've been spoiled growing up."
Over the next two years much changes for Feng and her family. Feng's husband leaves his job and puts all their savings into starting a private garage. And Gu Feng fails the college entrance exams. Feng takes advantage of a retirement package offered to older workers in heavy industry. She stops work and borrows money to pay for Gu Feng to repeat his courses. She also stays home to help him study.
By the end of filming in 2001, Gu Feng has passed the college-entrance exam and is studying for a degree in sports management to become a personal trainer. Feng has started working at her husband's garage and it's starting to make a profit.
Though Feng tells FRONTLINE the best days of her life were working at the state-owned plant, and at first she really missed it, she says she now must "face reality."