China Dreams: 20 Visions of the Future




China Dreams: 20 Visions of the Future is the first book published overseas to expound on the “China Dream” concept. Brought out by the U.S. branch of Oxford University Press in April 2013, its author, William A. Callahan, is a professor of international politics at the U.K. University of Manchester. His book raises some interesting viewpoints.

Author: William A. Callahan US $29.95 240 pages, hardcover Published by Oxford University Press 2013  

The Chinese people have begun to expect a “dream country.” The book points out that China’s development model has proven successful since the financial crisis broke out in 2008. In world citizens’ consciousness, therefore, the Chinese Dream supersedes the American Dream. Since completing its transition at the end of 2012, China’s new leadership has maintained its long-term development strategies. “The China Dream, the People’s Dream” was the title of newly elected President Xi Jinping’s closing speech at the first session of the 12th National People’s Congress on March 17, 2013: “Now everyone is talking about the Chinese Dream. I believe to achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is the greatest dream of the Chinese nation in modern times.”

Since President Xi Jinping made this speech, the people of China have voiced their understanding and expectations of the China Dream. The topic has attracted people from all walks, including New Leftists, Neoliberalists and citizen intellectuals. The Chinese people, in expectations of a “dream country,” are now about to relate their visions to the world.

Reform and opening-up has made the Chinese Dream of development reality. Callahan holds that the country has entered an era wherein any person born in China should exult in their good fortune. The Western world has slid into crisis under the impact of the September 11 attacks, the subsequent Iraq War and the financial crisis. The Chinese people, however, are optimistic in their expectations of the coming “China Century.” Thanks to the reform and opening-up policy launched by Deng Xiaoping, China has maintained high-speed economic development over the past three decades, during which 300 million people have risen from extreme poverty. It is now the second largest economy in the world. Since 2010, China has laid claim to the world’s fastest computer and the most brilliant students. The country has also entered an era of space exploration. All of these achievements show that China has developed into a muscular global power that is seeking its new position in the world arena.

After celebrating this remarkable economic success, many Chinese policy-makers and opinion leaders are now asking, “What comes next?” How can China convert its growing economic power into political and cultural influence in Asia, or even around the globe?

Different groups of people have diverse China dreams. The author maintains that the China Dream encompasses different visions, possibilities and futures. Such variances exist between government and civil society, between plans and dreams, and between domestic and international society. The author selects 20 Chinese people as representatives of different groups. They include state leaders Xi Jinping and Hu Jintao, philosopher Zhao Tingyang, economists Lin Yifu and Hu Angang, cultural scholar Chen Guanzhong, film director Jia Zhangke and famous blogger Xu Jinglei. All are elites that wield great influence within Chinese society. What they have to say about their China dreams gives voice to the problems and choices that China faces today.

The “Chinamerican” dream is being accepted by the peoples of China and of the U.S. The book argues that both China and the U.S. consider themselves uniquely superior; consequently that they have much of value to export to other countries. The meaning of the China Dream is always compared with that of the American Dream. Generally speaking, the American Dream is of individual freedom, the China Dream one of national rejuvenation.

The relationship between China and the U.S. is no longer simply that of producer and consumer. Peoples of the two countries have achieved a transnational connection through exchanges in various forms. Therefore, the book explores the relationship between the Chinese Dream and the American Dream, so providing a new approach to Sino-American relations. Using the blockbuster film Du Lala’s Promotion Diary as a yardstick, the author predicts that a “Chinamerican” dream will be shared and accepted by peoples of both countries, especially the younger generation of white collars.