The Red Guards generation benefited from neither Maoist socialism nor Dengist reform. Mao's revolution abandoned them, sweeping them out of urban centers; Deng's reform left them on the sidelines when China moved to embrace the market.
In Mao's era the Red Guards generation were the poorest of all poor Chinese, living at the lowest income level. This poverty impeded their exploiting the opportunities of Deng's reforms. The increasing costs of economic reform often started with them, further diminishing their capacity for competing in the market. Mao's revolution made them poor, forcing them to live a terrible life without economic liberty or any chance of improvement. It was even more painful when Deng's reform left them poor while Deng's regime glorified the rich (Tsou, 1996).
Ever since they had been forced into society, they had been living on an income that only kept body and soul together. For those in the cities, working life began with an apprenticeship in factories, at 18 Yuan a month. When Deng's reform began, they had climbed to the second lowest grade of China's eight-grade salary system for workers, having a monthly salary of less than 40 Yuan. In the 1970s and early 1980s this salary allowed them some small savings, but it often took them 1 or 2 years before they could buy a Shanghai-produced watch or bicycle, each priced at around 150 Yuan. Of those who went to the countryside, a minority was assigned to the military-imitated 'farming corps'. (Dutton, 2004)They first lived on a monthly subsidy of about 15 Yuan and later, when they had to pay for their own food, on a stipend system with '285 dimes' a month, as one sent-down youth mocked it. The majority had been forced into the villages and lived on a 'points system' (gongfenzhi) of people's communes. If a sent-down youth became a ten-points laborer (the highest rank), his (or her) 1 day work in most areas was valued at 30-50 cents on the village's account. If he worked over 330 days, at the end of the year he might get 40-60 Yuan after the deduction of the costs of the grain and other agricultural products he had received during the year. In a few areas ten-points a day was worth over 1 Yuan, but in many areas ten-points a day was worth 20, 10 or only 7 cents. Even worse, the sent-down youths were often not regarded as ten-points laborers. (Yang, 1997)
Those in the cities were among the poorest because they were at the bottom of the urban salary ladder that was framed on seniority. Those in the 'farming corps' were among the poorest, because they were treated as the lowest ranked 'farming soldiers' (bingtuan zhanshi), while others in their 'corps' were either 'farming officers' or 'farming workers', living on a slightly higher salary. (Gittings, 2005)Those in the villages were amongst the poorest becau