Pacific Prospective features the research of graduate students.
By Grégoire Legault – gregoire.legault [at] alumni.ubc.ca
After decades of political and socio-economic turmoil China is finally able to dream again. It is now prosperous and powerful enough to confront a new problem: how it should use its wealth and power towards social, environmental and political development. Enter the “Chinese Dream” (Zhongguo meng 中国梦).
Contrary to popular belief, the notion of a sort of “Chinese Dream” (or “Strong Nation Dream,” Qiangguo men 强国梦) has been floating around China for several decades in one form or another and isn’t just a recent effort to copycat the American Dream. However, it is true that the expression “Chinese Dream” only became mainstream after its popularization by China’s President Xi Jinping in late 2012.
Officially, the Chinese dream has been declared as the “realization of national prosperity, national rejuvenation and people’s happiness” (实现国家富强、民族振兴、人民幸福). Though the concept of Zhongguo meng itself makes no direct reference to ideology, it is understood as being achievable only through the guidance and leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. And yet, the Chinese Dream is not simply government propaganda. It also possesses a grassroots component, as Xi asked the people to appropriate the dream for themselves. It is meant to inspire the people and not just dictate Party line.
Though sometimes ridiculed domestically by netizens, and internationally by China watchers, the idea of a Chinese Dream has overall been well received by public intellectuals in China, who are neither officials nor dissidents. It has sparked a real national discussion, giving rise to a wide variety of definitions of that dream in the public realm—whether in casual conversations, books, traditional and social media, and blogs. It is emerging as an intellectual battleground between the new left and the liberals and is being constructed in opposition to the perceived “failure” of the American Dream.
If the notion of a “Chinese Dream” establishes a real and lasting social dialogue, it should be welcomed inside and outside of China. After all, China represents nearly 20 percent of humanity and is set to surpass the American economy within a decade. Dreams are ethereal and hard to chase; the way in which China chases its own dream will reveal what kind of nation it is to become.
Grégoire Legault is a Master in Asia Pacific Policy Studies candidate at the University of British Columbia and a Research Assistant in the Centre for Chinese Research. He recently completed an internship in public diplomacy at the Canadian embassy in Beijing. You can follow him on Twitter, connect with him on Linkedin or visit his photo blog.
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General Secretary Xi Jinping Explains the “Chinese Dream,” Xinhua News Agency, May 2013 (in Chinese)
Xi Jinping speaks on the “Chinese Dream” at the First Session of the 12th National People’s Congress, CCTV (via Youtube), March 2013 (in Chinese)
China Dreams by William Callahan, Oxford University Press, 2013
Seven Reasons the Chinese Dream Is Different than the American Dream, “Seek the Truth” a political theory periodical published by the Central Party School, May 2013 (in Chinese)
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