Avoid a Narrow Understanding of the Chinese Dream




THERE is the Chinese Dream in China, the American Dream in the United States, the European Dream in Europe, and the African Dream in Africa. Dreams of different nations and peoples may have things in common, but there are also differences, which naturally reflect the diversity of human society.

The Chinese Dream never antagonizes the dreams of other nations. Instead, it features innovation, inclusiveness and dynamism.

Like any national ideal, the Chinese Dream cannot readily be encapsulated by a simple list of qualities. In defining the dream, perhaps it is better to say what it is not.

Below is a list of misconceptions about the Chinese Dream. Most have been written about in some form of media or another, and it’s worth going through and providing rebuttal to each point one by one.

“The Chinese Dream is what the nation or, to be precise, the Chinese government, aspires to.”

Some foreign media have hence argued that the realization of the dream will come at a cost to the general public. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The government governs for the people, simple as that.

“The Chinese Dream will take the place of the American Dream.”

The American Dream is an important part of the U.S.’s soft power. Some people say that promoting the Chinese Dream provides ammunition for China’s threatening of U.S.’s soft power. Others even define the relationship between the U.S. and China as that between No. 1 and No. 2. in the world, warning that the Chinese Dream will supersede the American Dream. Actually, Chinese culture places a high value on inclusiveness and openness. China will never hinder realization of the dreams of other nations.

“The Chinese Dream is a new Utopia. It is a castle in the sky.”

Some have gone further and posited the dream as akin to the fatalistic ideas preached by some schools of Buddhism. But the Chinese Dream is not spiritual opium that would dampen people’s desire for change and conceal social contradictions. It is the opposite. It incorporates a vision for the future and the practical needs of pressing reality. It is by no means futile solace.

“The Chinese Dream is a sign that China is forsaking Communist ideals.”

Some people interpret the Chinese Dream from an ideological perspective. They conclude it is a set of utilitarian goals for the country. From its very birth, China’s socialist system, founded by the Communist Party of China, has been striving for common prosperity of all Chinese and mankind at large. The Chinese Dream doesn’t run counter to this Communist ideal, and instead signifies a more practical approach to realizing it. It is a dream for the common wealth of all peoples.

“The Chinese Dream indicates a departure from the old approach of “wading across the river by feeling for stones” and a shift to “top-level design” in China’s reform process.

The Chinese Dream is not a repudiation of the country’s hitherto path of reform. Rather, it is an extension of it. If we take China’s development to be a journey, reforms represent the road immediately in front of us. We must concentrate on it as we take steps. The dream is on the horizon. It is our destination.

“The Chinese Dream is the dream of constitutionalism, of human rights and of democracy.”

Yes, but this interpretation doesn’t paint a full picture. The Chinese Dream is much broader and more inclusive, covering all legitimate, rational and reasonable wants of communities, not merely the above three.

“The Chinese Dream is all about modernization, which is equivalent to total Westernization.”

Building a modern China has been the aspiration of the nation for over a century. But modernization is only one facet of the tremendous changes seen in China over the past few decades and is insufficient to explain the transformation of China’s relationship with the rest of the world. The Chinese Dream rides on the back of the localization of Western countries’ modernization theories and experiences. China will keep to the road of socialism with Chinese characteristics in pursuing its dream.

“The Chinese Dream is a dream of national rejuvenation. China wants to be dominant.”

There are worries among some countries that the dream suggests China seeks to restore its status as an unrivaled world power, as it was in the Han and Tang dynasties. This is the same old concern trumpeted by the “China Threat” theorists. As one of the oldest civilizations on earth, China feels obliged to contribute to human civilization, a goal that can be achieved by building a robust, dynamic culture and by promoting sustainable world development. Peace and cooperation are sustainable; rivalry is not.

“The Chinese Dream is nothing but the rise of China.”

It goes beyond that. The dream is more about the country’s wants, psyche and position in the world in a post-rise era. In raising the concept of the Chinese Dream, China is steering away from a singular focus on economic growth as a domestic policy. It is treading a line between pragmatism and idealism while adhering to socialism with Chinese characteristics. Internationally, China will continue to commit itself to advancing democratic, balanced and inclusive foreign relationships.

“The Chinese Dream is an incarnation of liberal nationalism.”

Such views can be found in some media. The fact is the Chinese Dream doesn’t stand against the dreams of other nations, and instead lends support to them, particularly those of developing countries.

To sum up, the Chinese Dream is first of all the wish of the Chinese people for a better life. Secondly, it represents the aspiration of the country for prosperity and democracy. This aspiration is also inclusive: the country has much to offer the world beyond the economic realm, and wants to share the best of its civilization with other nations.