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TIAN XIAO-WEI Chestnut Flower Village, Central China

"All we said to Tian Xiao-Wei was, 'Tell us about your life,' and she spoke non-stop for 40 minutes," says Sue Williams, the producer and director of "China in the Red." "The pent-up feelings, all the bitterness of a lifetime, just came flooding out. It was amazing and moving. And I'll never forget that the very first words out of Tian's mouth were, 'I'm a good-for-nothing woman.'"

Nearly 20 years ago, throughout China's vast countryside, the lives of peasants like Tian Xiao-Wei were changed forever when the government abandoned communes and encouraged peasants to raise and sell their own crops. That policy opened up a new future for Tian, who lives in Chestnut Flower Village in Shaanxi province in central China.

"My father had a bad class background," says Tian. "My family was poor. Many people in the village looked down on us. Since the reforms, now you can do anything and no one will be against you as long as you make money."

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A look at Chestnut Flower Village, where Tian lives. Though Tian has experienced a good deal of success since the economic reforms, her neighbor is slipping deeper into poverty.

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making noodles

Making Noodles

Although illiterate, Tian started a noodle shop so that she could put her daughters through school and help them move to the city. "I really don't want my kids to do heavy, dirty work," says Tian. "So I do it myself."

She also grows vegetables and raises pigs, earning about 10,000 yuan (or $1,200) a year, making her one of the richest people in the village. She has even built a large new house for her family.

"I'm happy that foreigners came to hear about my bitter life," says Tian. The fact that she was interviewed for "China in the Red" seems to have finally won her the esteem of the villagers.


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