The World Needs a Chinese Dream


        By WU JIANMIN


Participants interpret their own versions of the "Chinese Dream" at the Chinese Dream and Harmonious World senimar. 

DURING my tenure as its president, China Foreign Affairs University (CFAU) jointly sponsored the Chinese Dream and the Harmonious World seminar for three consecutive years from 2006 to 2008 in partnership with Beijing Foreign Studies University, Tianjin Foreign Studies University and Beijing Language and Culture University. Every year participants came from all walks of life and included senior officials, scientists, entrepreneurs, ordinary workers, teachers, students and foreign expats. They sat together and described their own versions of the Chinese Dream and their efforts to achieve it.

When each session came to an end I would hold discussions with my students, and they unanimously said that they had drawn inspiration from the life experience of the speakers. In the current domestic and global situation, such inspiration is imperative, and it is an important time to learn to better understand the Chinese Dream.

The ability to dream of greater things is a common asset of mankind, and all the peoples of the world have their respective dreams. For China, the national dream has changed much in the past century. In the revolutionary era the common dream was to save the country from foreign occupation and wartime destruction, and to build an independent, strong and democratic nation. Legions of patriotic Chinese shed blood and even sacrificed their lives for this cause. The power of a shared dream cannot be underestimated.

Today we have different aspirations. China has undergone dramatic development during these past three decades of opening-up and reform, a feat achieved through the collective efforts of all its citizens. Individual well-being hinges on the strength of a nation, and the pursuit of personal success contributes to the building of a better country.

It is a bittersweet process pursuing one’s dream, requiring strong will and hard toil that sometimes cost one’s health or even life. But the pride and joy of reaching the finish line and receiving the trophy of your aspirations is without doubt truly rewarding.

But the mania of chasing our dreams has created an undesirable side-effect in China – pecuniary culture has crept into every aspect of our society. As a result, China is going through three major crises in faith, credibility and trust of public power. When corporeal lust overtakes spiritual pursuits as the overarching goal of life, it will spell disastrous consequences for society.

Dreaming as a Nation

In my opinion the Chinese Dream has three defining features.

First, it is a dream of 1.3 billion people. The rise of China is an ascent of the largest national population in human history. China’s opening-up and reform provide the room for all citizens to fulfill their ambitions. Despite the wealth gap and urban-rural divide in general, the livelihood of people in every part of China is notches above that of three decades ago. The change for better is owed to right state policies and also to the power of the dreams of 1.3 billion people.

Second, this dream spans every corner of society. To build a modern nation demands contributions from all walks of life. There is an old saying in China: one can achieve fame in any vocation. Yet there are many unknown heroes in this country who have done excellent work in their respective positions. Their dreams may be humble in comparison to those of certain others, but they are just as significant to the good of the country.

Third, it is a dream open to the world. Since the commencement of opening-up and reform China has seen an influx of foreigners who come to seek business opportunities, jobs or merely follow their own dreams. China welcomes them as it looks for inclusive development that promotes global cooperation and benefits for all. China cannot achieve healthy development without committed collaboration with the world, and the concepts of “mutual benefit” and “win-win” are the cornerstones of sustained international partnership. China must share its dreams with the world. In this sense the Chinese Dream is part of the dream of all humanity.

Every Chinese has his or her Chinese Dream. Whatever they might be, I think each must be underlined by a simple requirement – they must motivate their holders to do good for society, for their country and for the world, and to be honest and dignified citizens. These are not abstract goals or tall orders; all that is needed is to be dedicated to what one is supposed to do according to one’s capacity. Every legitimate job has a reason to exist, and reflects a demand for the service it provides. However mundane it might look, its occupant must exert all efforts to deliver his or her best performance and should understand the honor in doing so.

Chinese people are living in a world where their dreams seem more within their grasp. Today Asia, and particularly East Asia, is the gravitational center of global economic growth. Factors that have contributed to each country’s growth include regional peace and the proper handling of frictions between neighbors, market-oriented economic reform and successful efforts in embracing globalization. China is embarking on yet another new stage in its development following the 18th CPC National Congress. The coming 10 years is critical for China and the world as well.

The world will thus need the Chinese Dream more than ever. The rapid rise of the Middle Kingdom has already invoked angst among some people who have no idea what kind or size of new power such a huge nation will become. It is hence important for them to know and understand more about the individual stories of the Chinese people that constitute the Chinese Dream.

Peoples all over the world have much in common, and human stories appeal to all. Knowing how daily life is among average Chinese draws them closer to China, and to the understanding that Chinese people are not aliens and hold wishes similar to theirs for the future. This will assuage suspicion and enmity towards China’s growth.

During a meeting with Joshua Cooper Ramo, managing director of Kissinger Associates, in my capacity as CFAU president, I briefed him on the Chinese Dream and the Harmonious World seminar. He was impressed, and later wrote an article for Newsweek on this subject. Ramo agreed that the world wants to know the reality in China, and telling individual stories about the Chinese Dream can help in this respect.

But not only does the world want to understand the Chinese Dream, China also needs the world to know its dream, as it will never be able to achieve it in secret, behind closed doors. The world’s support and cooperation is critical to realization of the Chinese Dream.