Helen Wang
Helen Wang

Incoming president Xi Jinping tried to define his Chinese dream, and got – rather uncensored – he did not gather a lot of support among China’s internet users. Helen Wang, author of The Chinese Dream summarizes the Chinese efforts to define their dream in Forbes.

Helen Wang:

Xi’s Chinese Dream statement is uninspiring, to say the least. Today, China is the second largest economy in the world, and soon to be the largest. In many people’s view, China is already a strong nation. The skylines of Shanghai, Chongqing, and other cities are much more impressive than those of New York or London. Such a call for nation-building would have made sense 100 years ago when China was at its knees. But today, average people are more concerned with their individual rights and opportunities for upward mobility.

To his credit, though, Xi Jinping helped to start a long over-due conversation: what is the Chinese Dream? When my book The Chinese Dream was translated into Chinese in 2011, I wrote in the Foreword that China doesn’t have a Chinese Dream. This is a crisis because it is like a country without a soul, a computer without software, or a ship without navigation.

The Chinese middle class is now more than 450 million strong. To ensure that the middle class continues to grow, China needs to have an environment where people can feel safe and secure to pursue their dreams and aspirations, and a system that is fair, just, and provides opportunities for all, not just for the privileged and connected few. This requires reform of China’s current political system, which is at the root of corruption and a lack of enforcement of the rule of law.

As one person pointed out sharply on Weibo, “The country belongs to the people. People make history. Only when everyone has freedom of speech, elections, migration, and equal rights, will they really care about the country – that is everybody’s dream.”

A Chinese saying says, he who goes with The Way thrives; he who goes against The Way perishes. In the past 30 years, the legitimacy of the Communist Party was due to its economic reforms. In the next 30 years, the legitimacy of the Party will depend on whether it will initiate political reforms. Otherwise, Xi Jinping’s grand Chinese Dream will turn out to be a Chinese nightmare.

Whatever the outcome, I am confident that the Chinese people will define their Chinese Dream.

More in Forbes.

Helen Wang is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.

One way Chinese try to pursue their dream is by actually leaving China. In September 2012 the China Weekly Hangout discussed why Chinese are leaving China with  lawyer Li Meixian, blogger Isaac Mao and business professor Richard Brubaker. Moderation by president of the China Speakers Bureau, Fons Tuinstra.

On Thursday 7 February the China Weekly Hangout will focus another dream, the one on education: a goldmine or a black hole (and for whom). You can register at our event page, and also leave there your questions and comments. 

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