The Chinese Dream, Whose Dream?

By staff reporter LIU YI

The Chinese Dream

— What It Means for China and the Rest of the World

Edited by Ren Xiaosi

Paperback, RMB 98

Published by New World Press in September 2013

in Beijing

When reviewing the events of 2013, “the Chinese Dream” is undoubtedly one of the key phrases that come to mind. President Xi Jinping proposed the concept in late 2012, and immediately prompted public discussion. Dreams, for the first time, became a topic at the dining tables of Chinese people. A new book published by New World Press, The Chinese Dream — What It Means for China and the Rest of the World, makes an in-depth analysis and explanation of this hot topic.

As early as 1932, Shanghai-based Orient Magazine initiated a discussion about dreams, and over 100 renowned people responded by writing about their hopes and aspirations. Writer Shi Zhecun said that in his dream, China would be a peaceful country, rich and strong. Novelist Ye Shengtao had a very practical dream: “Everyone has rice to eat, and everyone has work to do.” Even 80 years ago people had strong expectations of realizing national rejuvenation and prosperity.

The Chinese civilization led the world for thousands of years, and maintained its leading status for much of the 15th century. At the end of the 18th century, China was still number one in terms of economic aggregate, and home to a third of the world’s population. However, after the First Opium War in 1840, China tragically faded into a semi-feudal and semi-colonial country, poor and weak, facing the unwelcome prospect of being parceled out among the powers.

But the reform and opening-up policy greatly changed the country. In the last three decades, its economic status in the world has improved vastly: in 2010, China became one of the world’s strongest economies, second only to the U.S.; in 2011, it grew to be the leading manufacturer in the world; and according to statistics released by the Associated Press in December 2012, China has surpassed the U.S. to become the biggest trade partner of a large number of countries.

So what is the dream of China today? The Chinese Dream — What It Means for China and the Rest of the World is a rich source of answers that allows readers to access the historical and contemporary basis of the Chinese dream. It also records the dreams of real people. As E-commerce guru Ma Yun (Jack Ma) said, the Chinese dream is not to unite the country to one dream, because each of the 1.3 billion people has different dreams. We each have our own today and tomorrow.

When he was young, Li Dong-xiao lived near a railway station and dreamed of one day driving a train. In 1994, he achieved that dream and became a train driver. At that time, the steam locomotive had just been retired from operation in China, and the new diesel locomotive ran at a speed of only 100 km an hour at most. In the driving room three drivers worked simultaneously – one drove and the other two kept adding coal and water to the engine. Li hoped that one day he would have the chance to drive a high-speed train, but this seemed a distant dream.

But that dream was eventually realized in 2007 when he was selected as one of the first group of high-speed railway drivers for the Harmony Train between Beijing and Tianjin, which could reach a speed of over 300 km an hour. Li walked along the railway line, recording each turnout junction and signal. He also subdivided the 30-minute journey into 1,800 seconds and created a driving map based on every second of the journey, which later obtained a national patent. Now, Li is making efforts to realize his next dream – making the railway a symbol for high speed, safety and comfort.

Other dream chasers in the book include farmers, workers, engineers and college students, as well as eminent people. Yuan Longping, the “Father of Hybrid Rice” and academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said he had two dreams: one was for rice to grow as high as sorghum, its ears, as long as a broom, its grains, as big as peanuts, and its output of one mu, as high as 1,000 kg; the other one was for hybrid rice to be adopted all over the world to combat world food crises. The dreams sound exaggerated but might well come true in the near future.

Wu Jianmin, former ambassador to France, said that if a country rises and develops at a fast rate, a host of successful people will come to the surface; and China is experiencing this development. Throughout history, it has been necessary for emerging economies to have their own dreams and they all have one thing in common – these dreams serve to inspire generations of people to make efforts and strive for success.

It is all too easy to compare the Chinese dream with the American dream. Do these two large powers have the same dream? What kind of influence do they have on the rest of the world? In June 2013, Dr. Henry Kissinger, who has been to China over 80 times, visited Beijing. Referring to the dreams of the two countries, he said they were different but had the same goal.

“The American dream is rooted in the ceaseless pursuit of improving personal living conditions, and Americans believe the future will always be better. China suffered a lot in the last 150 to 200 years. So when we look to the future, it is important to put forward the Chinese dream,” Dr. Kissinger told China Economic Weekly. “Despite having different roots, the goals of the two dreams are consistent and similar – a more peaceful, prosperous and cooperative world.”

The Chinese Dream — What It Means for China and the Rest of the World also tells the dreams of many foreigners who have worked and lived in China. Daniel J. Dudek, leading economist of the U.S. Environmental Defense Fund, dreamed to make the planet a better home for human beings. His suggestions for conservation measures in China were adopted by the environmental departments, and also highly appraised by the Chinese Premier. For his outstanding contribution, Dudek was awarded the National Friendship Award in 2004, the highest honor for foreigners given by the Chinese government. He said it was a signal that the Chinese government was actively participating in environmental protection and making efforts to build a better world.

 This book is not only an account of dreams and achievements, but also a vivid description of a nation and the current state of mind of its people. It helps readers to understand the history and reality of China, as well as its expectations for the future.