Structuring the Chinese Dream

The Chinese Dream is President Xi Jinping’s integrative and transformative vision for China, an overarching unifying principle for the Chinese people. To commemorate the first anniversary of Xi proclaiming the Chinese Dream as “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”, a forum called “International Dialogue on the Chinese Dream” was held in Shanghai. The forum brought together scholars and officials from China and abroad to discuss the Chinese Dream: what it is, what it should be and what it should not be. All recognized its importance.

I was pleased to participate, exchanging collegial views on how the Chinese Dream reflects China’s policies and highlights its challenges. I offered a theoretical framework for the Chinese Dream by organizing its elements or applications into high-level categories. I call the output a "taxonomy", using as analogy the hierarchical structure of the biological world.

In this taxonomy, I have five categories that compose the Chinese Dream: national, personal, historical, global and antithetical. For each, I suggest subcategories.

National: The “National Chinese Dream” is the collective vision to achieve the “Two 100s”: first, the material goal of China becoming a “moderately well-off society” by about 2020, around the CPC’s 100th anniversary (2021); second, the modernization goal of China becoming a fully developed nation by about 2050, around New China’s 100th anniversary (2049).

“A moderately well-off society” is where all citizens, rural and urban, enjoy decent standards of living. This includes doubling the 2010 per capita GDP (approaching $10,000) by about 2020 and completing urbanization (over 1 billion people, roughly 75 percent of China’s population) over the next decade. “Modernization” means China re-establishing its position as a world leader in science and technology as well as in economics and business; the resurgence of Chinese civilization, culture and defensive strength; and China participating in all areas of human endeavor.

The National Chinese Dream may be described with several subcategories: Strong China (economically, politically, scientifically, militarily), Stable China (freedom from chaos, social confidence), Bountiful China (high standards of living for all citizens), Harmonious China (amity among classes, creeds and ethnic groups), Civilized China (equity and fairness, rich culture, high morals), Beautiful China (healthy environment, modern cities, scenic landscapes), Creative China (scientific excellence, artistic elegance, innovative products).

Personal: The “Personal Chinese Dream” has two subcategories: material or physical well-being, and mental or psychological well-being. Fulfilling the Personal Chinese Dream constitutes a good part of what it means to fulfill the National Chinese Dream.

Material well-being covers the necessities of life, such as safe food, decent housing, and personal security, and the expectations of life, such as quality education, modern healthcare and secure retirement. In addition, the Chinese people desire good jobs, contented family lives, and diverse entertainment, among other facets of contemporary life, and proper protection of personal rights under the law.

Psychological well-being can be explained in terms of “positive psychology”, the science of happiness developed by psychologist Martin Seligman that provides personal satisfaction and social benefits. The Chinese Dream is for individuals to flourish, making Chinese people more resilient, rewarded and fulfilled, and Chinese society more stable, moral and thriving.

Historical: The “Historical Chinese Dream” consists of three subcategories: China’s long desire for a unified, sovereign, peaceful and prosperous country; progressive development of China’s political theory; and the changing nature of the Chinese Dream over time.

After suffering foreign invasion and subjugation, and enduring domestic oppression, the Chinese people yearn for stability and transformation — a new China that is independent, strong, and free from miseries of all kinds.

In addition, the Historical Chinese Dream includes the political development from Deng Xiaoping Theory, which re-oriented China from ideological struggle to economic development, through two generations of leadership breakthroughs, which modernized the CPC and addressed complex contemporary issues, to President Xi Jinping’s all-encompassing “Chinese Dream”. As Deng commenced economic reform and opening- up, Xi’s Chinese Dream develops for the Chinese people a robust, more confident nation and happier, more enriched lives.

The Chinese Dream may also be viewed as snapshots of history, tracing how the aspirations of the Chinese people have grown. Recall the “three big things” from the 1960s (watch, bicycle, radio) and 1980s (TV, washing machine, refrigerator)?

Global: The “Global Chinese Dream” features two different kinds of subcategories: how the Chinese Dream benefits the world, and why the Chinese Dream worries the world.

The world benefits from the Chinese Dream because as living standards of the Chinese people rise, more goods and services are consumed, including imports, and because China’s population is huge, jobs are created and prosperity is increased globally. In addition, China’s low-cost manufacturing provides essential products, such as smartphones, at reasonable prices. (This is vital in the developing world.)

The world worries because some perceive the Chinese Dream to have expansionist, or even imperialist, undertones. Even when China’s leaders repeat “no matter how strong China becomes, China will never seek hegemony”, some foreigners, particularly those who do not know China or Chinese history, remain suspicious. When, they fret, will a more powerful China become a more aggressive China?

Although some foreigners will never trust China, China can mitigate concerns by explaining that the nation is determined to elevate domestic standards of living and international discord undermines this core goal.

Antithetical: The “Antithetical Chinese Dream” reflects the normal tradeoffs that all societies face — the contradictions and tensions among competing goods and policies. This allocation conflict can be characterized by the classic “guns versus butter” aphorism — how to apportion national resources between military requirements and social necessities. For China, however, the primary tradeoff is not between military and social, but between economic development and its unintended byproducts, such as income disparities and environmental degradation.

How to actualize the Chinese Dream? Look no further than the decisions of the Third Plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee. While implementation is multifaceted, and will take years, the plenum’s “comprehensively deepening reforms” are the road map.

The author, an international corporate strategist, is the author of How China’s Leaders Think and the biography of former president Jiang Zemin. He is also a commentator on CCTV, BBC, CNN, Bloomberg and other media. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

Original Source: South China Morning Post

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