I lived my young adulthood during the transition from the planned economy to the opening of the market. Reform and opening up began to take shape in Shanghai in the late 80s. After I graduated from college, I was assigned to work at the Shanghai Machine Tool Factory in 1986. I soon felt that the atmosphere was changing. People around me were getting out of the system and going all over the country to look for business opportunities. Before, it was a crime — “speculation” — to take something from a place where it was abundant to a place where there was scarcity.
In 1989, I took a leave of absence from my job and went to Shenzhen to experience the business atmosphere, and then started to go around the country, trading sand, cement, and rebar, and later trying to sell computers, stereos, and printers in Shanghai.
At that time, each city had its own food specialty, and these things could only be bought when you went to the local area. Each city had its own brand of milk. Beer too. Now, you can buy any local food brand you want online.