PERSONAL NOTE: I DECIDED to share my book with many friends and students in mainland China because the book is not available in China. It is expensive to order one from USA. Read it, enjoy it and share it. Steve, China, January 3, 2019 firstname.lastname@example.org blog – https://getting2knowyou-china.com
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Some people like to think the Chinese Dream is similar to the American Dream. Is it? So where did the Chinese or China Dream come from and what is it about? The phrase China Dream has appeared in book titles in China. The first book published in China by Li Junru in 2006 was “The China Dream: China In Peaceful Development”, followed by Liu Mingful in 2010 with “China Dream: Great Power Thinking and Strategic Posture in the Post-American Era”. With the emergence of China’s middle class and the booming economy, this phrase has appeared in Western books discussing about China’s rise in the contemporary world. “The China Dream: The Quest for the Last Great Untapped Market on Earth” by Joe Studwell in 2003. “The Chinese Dream: The Rise of the World’s Largest Middle Class and What It Means to You” by Helen Wang in 2010. “The End of the Chinese Dream: Why Chinese People Fear the Future” by Gerard Lemos in 2012. Something a little unusual happened on November 12, 2012, three days before Mr. Xi Jinping took office as the President of China. Oriental Outlook—a magazine published by Xinhua—had a series of articles related to the Chinese Dream with an editorial preface: “The 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party convened November 8. ‘Does the next generation of Chinese leaders have a Chinese Dream that is different from the American Dream? Because if the next government’s dream for China’s emerging middle class—300 million people expected to grow to 800 million by 2015—is just like the American Dream (a big car, a big house and McDonald’s Big Macs for all) then we need another planet.’ This was a question raised by one of America’s most influential media figures, Thomas Friedman.”
On November 29, 2012, on a visit to an exhibition “Road to Revival” at the National Museum, Mr. Xi Jinping delivered his unscripted remarks on the Chinese dream to a group of reporters and museum workers: “Everyone has their own ideals and pursuits and everyone has their own dream. Now everyone is talking about the Chinese dream.” On March 13, 2013, in an article in Globe, a magazine published by Xinhua News Agency, it first summarized Friedman’s views followed by these words: “Without a doubt, realizing the ‘Chinese dream’ of the great revival of the Chinese nation has become the best response to Friedman.” Thomas Friedman is no stranger to China. His famous 2007 book on globalization The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century was translated into Chinese and became a bestseller praising China’s economic achievements, reprinted many times. In 2011 Friedman co-authored with Michael Mandelbaum on That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World it Invented and How We Can Come Back with the theme of China’s rise and America’s fall making Chinese readers happy.
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In September 2012, author Helen H. Wang gave Tom Friedman a copy of her book at a dinner in Shanghai hosted by Peggy Liu, Chairwoman of JUCCCE (Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy). Helen Wang is an expert on China’s middle class and won the 2012 Eric Hoffer Award and First Horizon Award for her book The Chinese Dream: The Rise of the World’s Largest Middle Class and What It Means to You. She came originally from China but has lived in America for over twenty years. She had her master’s degree from Stanford University, joined a prestigious think tank and consulted for Fortune 500 companies. She was one of the first to connect the Chinese Dream with the American Dream. She believes the Chinese people have similar dreams like the Americans, to have a better life and to give our children an even better life. The book is based on interviews with the entrepreneurial middle class, showing “how a growing global mindset and the realization of unity in diversity may ultimately provide the way to creating a saner, safer world for all.” But Chinese people must also define their own dream.
But different articles in China in late 2012 and early 2013 attributed Mr. Xi’s adoption of the phrase Chinese Dream to Thomas Friedman. So what did he write in his column “China Needs Its Own Dream”. October 2, 2012: “On Nov. 8, China is set to hold the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party. We already know who will be the next party leader: Vice President Xi Jinping. What we don’t know is what matters: Does Xi have a Chinese Dream that is different from the American Dream? Because if Xi’s dream for China’s emerging middle class…is just like the American Dream (a big car, a big house and Big Macs for all) then we need another planet. Spend a week in China and you’ll see why.”
Friedman then went on to discuss about the serious water resource shortages in Shanghai because of the rising population growth, indicating China cannot and must not continue this path. And for the rest of his article he essentially explained and supported what Peggy Liu, the founder of the Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy, or JUCCCE is trying to do with her Chinese Dream. So who is Peggy Liu? In a report in The Guardian (the winner of the Pulitzer Prize 2014) October 24, 2012, its opening paragraph says it all about Peggy Liu: “Peggy Liu, the co-founder of JUCCCE is living the dream. Not the American dream mind you, Liu is living her own creation—the Chinese dream.” Friedman obviously believes Peggy Liu is on into something that might just be the savior of modern China. She believes China cannot and must not follow the path taken by the American Dream, which is the path of conspicuous consumption and if China does, “the planet will be stripped bare of natural resources to make all that the Chinese consumers want to consume.” In her view the Chinese today are looking for a new national identity, one that merges traditional Chinese values with its modern urban reality and that is the creation of a
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sustainable Chinese Dream.
So Peggy Liu has been busy working with “Chinese mayors and social networks, sustainability experts and Western advertising agencies to catalyze sustainable habits in the emergent consuming class by redefining personal prosperity.” That means more access to better products and services so everyone can get a piece of a better pie, not by owning but sharing them. The key word is access not ownership, access to better public transportation, better housing in those dense vertical buildings which are more energy efficient, making “shared services easier to deliver” and also helping to ease friction between the rich and the poor. Friedman supports JUCCCE’s Chinese Dream as “Harmonious and Happy Dream”. So to Friedman, “To say China needs its own dream in no way excuses Americans or Europeans from redefining theirs. We all need to be rethinking how we sustain rising middle classes with rising incomes in a warming world, otherwise the convergence of warming, consuming and crowding will mean we grow ourselves to death.” As far as Peggy Liu is concerned, the sustainability goals of cutting energy and water intensity per unit of GDP in the China new 2011-2015 five-year plan are not enough. Her hope is for the Chinese government to have “a plan to steer consumer behavior toward a sustainable path.” Sustainability is the word of the day. The key to understand China’s future and the future of the rest of the industrialized world. In Friedman’s view, Mr Xi Jinping will face two critical challenges as he takes over the office of the President of PRC: how will the Communist Party under him provide more high growth to satisfy the population and how to manage the downsides of that growth—like severe pollution in major cities, widening income and wealth gaps, massive rural urban migration and environmental degradation. And Friedman believes China needs its own dream, not the American Dream, but one that “marries people’s expectations of prosperity with a more sustainable China”. And in conclusion, he raises this question, “Does Xi know that, and, if he does, can he move the system fast enough?”
Obviously along with Peggy Liu, Friedman does not believe the American Dream is suitable or appropriate for the future of China. That China needs to define its own dream like socialism with Chinese characteristics. Friedman writes, “China needs its own dream.”
What a way to start his presidency—the first time since becoming the President of China—when all seven Standing committee members of the Politburo of the CPC Central Committee—the seven Party leaders—took a tour of the grand exhibition “The Road Towards Renewal” at the National Museum November 29, 2012. To me this tour of the exhibition about China’s struggles to be what China is today, is pointing the direction for Mr. Xi to continue this revival under his leadership.
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According to CCTV News, the exhibition is a retrospective of a century of China’s history, starting from the Opium War of 1840, the dramatic struggles of the nation against imperialist oppression, the different historical stages the nation faced on the road to revival, and to the transformation into an independent and prosperous modern China, especially its rejuvenation under the leadership of the Communist Party of China. A formidable challenge to Mr. Xi to continue to move forward and further with this revival momentum. According to the news, “Xi Jinping urged all Party members to carry forward the great achievements, build the party in a more scientific way, unite people of all ethnic groups in developing the nation and maintain the impetus towards building a successful and prosperous China.” The reporter concluded by saying, “After visiting the exhibition, Party leader Xi Jinping called for Party members to continue to strive to realize China’s great revival.”
I first felt the importance of the so-called Chinese Dream in December 2013 when experts from over 20 countries attended a two-day International Dialogue on the Chinese Dream in Shanghai hosted by China’s State Council Information Office, and jointly organized by China Foreign Languages Publishing Administration and Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. The State Council is the “highest executive organ of State power, as well as the highest organ of State administration”. So what is the appeal of the Chinese dream?
In November 2012, President Xi Jinping talked about the Chinese Dream during his visit to “The Road Towards Renewal” exhibition at the National Museum of China. In his speech at the closing ceremony of the First Session of the 12th National People’s Congress in March, 2013 he further elaborated on it. To him it means the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, achieving happiness and prosperity for the citizens. If the people do well, the nation is well. We must all work together so people can enjoy better education, stable employment and higher incomes, social security, improved medical and health care, better housing and the environment. We must take care of our children, they are our future. And as a nation, we must provide every opportunity to realize our dreams. It is a dream for peace, harmony and mutual benefit. And this dream is for the Chinese people and also for people in all countries around the world.
So what do Chinese people think about President Xi’s Chinese Dream? An interior decorator from Jiangsu Province said: “After President Xi Jinping put forward the Chinese Dream, we feel that we have something to look forward to. We can bravely design our own dreams. The dream is for China, as well as for every one of us.”
“The Chinese Dream sends to the world,” according to a postgraduate student, “a
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message that China is rising. We are very proud, and are more motivated in learning. The future will certainly belong to us young people.”
And to a migrant worker, “The Chinese Dream is within our reach.” It is obvious that President Xi’s Chinese Dream has resonated with the Chinese people. Yes, China has overcome many obstacles, incurred huge sacrifices but learned a simple lesson from past tribulations: “Lagging behind leaves one vulnerable to attacks”. This dream reflects the desires of all the people. Since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, China has been involved in socialist construction and carried out the reform and opening-up policy. With the Chinese Dream, President Xi is opening a new chapter for the Chinese people in the new century to aspire for the renewal of a nation. According to a June 2013 survey by the Guangdong Provincial Survey and Research Center, 89.4 percent of the respondents believed that the Chinese Dream could be realized. Most people are optimistic about its implementation. And the road to achieve this dream is socialism with Chinese characteristics, based on historical factors and present realities. China has benefited from the reform and opening-up policy for 35 years. Its GDP has increased 142 folds. People’s living standards have improved and also the comprehensive national strength. Today China is closer to her dream and goals than ever before as long as it follows the road of Chinese socialism.
The CPC Central Committee under General Secretary Xi Jinping since 2012 has introduced new work styles and made progress in many fields. Most critical is the eight measures to combat corruption and launched “mass line” educational activities for the Party, thus ensuring all government officials are honest, all political affairs done with integrity, and the government is clean and working hard for the people.
Without doubt it has emitted great positive energy everywhere in China. It has evoked people’s unprecedented confidence and pride in the central government. And definitely it has inspired people to work hard for a successful and beautiful life. More and more people have started to chase after their own dreams. That everything is possible, whether getting a better education and training, starting your own businesses, buying your own homes and chasing after wealth. And like the Americans, if you work hard, your dreams will come true.
As an outsider looking inside China, to me the most meaningful aspect of President Xi’s Chinese dream is a clearer understanding for CPC members of their historical responsibility: to serve the people. Yes, the goals are the happiness of the people, prosperity of the country, and the rejuvenation of the nation. How to achieve all these goals? The wisdom is to link CPC’s policies and practices with the hopes and dreams of the Chinese people. The CPC has launched “mass line” education activities,
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involving fighting against formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism and extravagance in the Party. And also removing dangers such as a lack of drive, incompetence, being out of touch with the people, corruption and other misconducts.
Chinese people heartily support government actions to rectify work styles, tighten disciplines, so that CPC members are more devoted to upholding people’s interests. And today we can see CPC’s appeal to the people and its governing ability has increased immeasurably. And China intends to share this Chinese Dream with the rest of the world and in time to make a greater contribution to the peace, happiness and prosperity of the world.
According to Robert Kuhn, a China watcher from the United States, creator and host of the CCTV News show “Closer to China”, regular columnist for China Daily and South China Morning Post on China, “It’s entirely in China’s best interest to have a stable world in order for China to achieve the Chinese Dream for itself. It must have a world that is in peace.” He believes the entire world in the globalized economy would benefit from the Chinese Dream but how should they understand this dream?
Martin Jacques, visiting senior fellow with the London School of Economics and Political Science, said in a speech at the conference that the global landscape had been shaped by the Western world the past two centuries during industrialization and now the Chinese Dream will change this same global landscape through international rules and experiences of both developed and emerging countries. “The Chinese Dream’s realization will come along with the formation of the new global landscape,” he said. “It is a good thing for the Chinese Dream to integrate with the world.”
Indeed, the Chinese Dream is by the people, for the people and to the people. Long ago we learned from the greatest Chinese sage Confucius that if people do well, the nations will do well. And if the nations do well, the people will do well. Now China has become a land flowing with milk and honey. According to Rabbi Menachem Posner, the Bible tells the story of how God spoke to Moses at the burning bush, that He would redeem the Israelites (the Jews) and bring them to the Promised Land, one that is a “good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey”, out of slavery in Egypt. Rabbi Posner writes that honey in the Bible generally refers to fruit nectar, specifically date honey, plentiful in that part of the world—not bees’ honey. That fruit trees that overflow with nectar only “when the land is especially fertile, when the trees are particularly well-nourished.” The same is true with livestock. It survives in many different habitats “but only overflow with milk when they are in particularly fertile pastures.” Thus, in the words of Rabbi Posner, a land flowing with milk and honey is about the greater good, the fertility of the Promised Land.
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A new Moses, Mr. Xi Jinping, is leading the 1.3 billion people to this Promised Land, a land now flowing with milk and honey, that together the nation and the people will continue to strive for and enjoy the abundance, prosperity, harmony and happiness of a good life in this new Promised Land. And he believes the rest of the world will benefit from China’s realization of the Chinese Dream. Together we will succeed and win the race.
The Chinese Dream or socialism with Chinese characteristics, like active tentacles of an octopus, is seeking new roots all over the world. President Xi wants to spread China’s happiness, economic expansion and prosperity all over the world. And he is doing it.
This is China.