Born 20 years after his elder sisters, Dong grew up in a different world. Nevertheless, he faced his own personal problems. At school, Dong was an excellent student, which meant that he gained sponsorship to train at a vocational college and went on to gain a position in the local government. However, this prevented him from having a university education and a possible job in the city. His abilities were however recognized, and he was promoted to higher levels in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), resulting in him becoming responsible for the economic development of a rural township.