Helen Wang answers questions from ATimes, on the day of the official launch of her book The Chinese Dream: The Rise of the World’s Largest Middle Class and What It Means to You. How do young Chinese look at the US?
Twenty years ago, when I first came to the US, China was just opening. Chinese had very little information on the world. After all, during the Cold War we were adversaries. Once China opened, we began to see that the world was very different than we had been raised to think. And once we could, we all wanted to go to America. I viewed America as a place for the impossible, a romantic version of what the world was not – a dream come true.
Even now, young people in China still look up to the US, but that has begun to change over the last couple of years. Largely because of the financial crisis, some say: “See, maybe they don’t know what they are doing.” Also, as a Chinese living in America, I felt that up until about two or three years ago, American news coming out of China was very biased – not very right on – but that has changed recently. I feel the coverage now by American media outlets is actually quite fair and balanced on China. I think a lot of American media has done a better job recently of focusing on getting first-hand information in China, less surface stories, and less American-centric…
When I left China twenty years ago, there was no Chinese dream. But now there is: now people in China can start a business, they can own homes, they can drive new cars, and they can send their children to college. In many ways, Chinese see how Americans live and they want more of the same thing. The difference is that Chinese are very much focused on their own economics – they feel that as long as they stay out of politics they can have a good life.
Helen Wang is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. When you need her at your meeting or conference, do get in touch.