Growing up in a small farming village in rural Jiangxi Province, Liao Zhicheng dreamed of becoming China’s “outstanding entrepreneur” so he could “change the fate of the poor family,” he writes on a Web site. His rags-to-riches hopes started to come true when he enrolled at the Finance and Economic Vocational College of Jiangxi and earned top academic honors, including a national scholarship to supplement family support. His father encouraged him to use the extra funds “to eat a little better.”...

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