“The China Dream”

9 May

With the establishment of a new Chinese government, Xi Jinping has claimed that he is a man with a better dream for China. Recently confirmed as one of the most powerful leaders on the planet, he has sought to consolidate his power by setting out a new mandate for the Government, with an emphasis on reducing the inefficiencies of the CCP due to its corrupt practices and inequality between rich and poor. This resurgence in Chinese nationalism is akin to Maoist era of social control, where the CCP sought to create a grass root approach to establishing support for the Government. Although this approach by Xi Jinping is creditable as it is challenging the established communist regime, problems emerge in the vagueness in its definition as well as the its practicality in implementation.

How to define this Chinese Dream?

According to Xi, it is about “realizing a prosperous and strong country, the rejuvenation of the nation and the well-being of the people.” According to the state-run news agency Xinhua, it means that all workers should “combine their personal dreams … with the national dream and fulfil their obligations to the country.” James Miles, Beijing bureau chief, The Economist, defined Xi Jinping’s dream as “ the great revival of the Chinese nation.” Through this definition many have interpreted a return to the ‘renaissance’ period of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s under the rule of Deng Xiaoping. Recently, Mr Jinping has highlighted the importance that Deng Xiaoping has had in the growth of the Chinese economy; not only through his Open Door policy reforms but through the strict control of the Communist Party to keep its political system under tight control. This appreciation has been solidified by Xi Jinping’s recent tour around China, as a means to confirm his role as leader of the nation. The first visit was to the “Special Economic Zone” of Shenzhen in the south, the cradle of China’s economic revolution. The message of that visit was that Mr Xi wants to be seen as a reformer in the mould of Deng Xiaoping. The symbolic replication that Mr Jinping is trying to create will no doubt create a more nationalist sentiment throughout the Chinese populate, or he hopes that it does so. He was filmed meeting peasants, tasting their food, chatting with them in their homes. This time the message was that Mr Xi wants to be seen as a “man of the people”, in touch with the concerns of the poor.

The adoption of this personal slogan – “one that conveys a sense of beyond-normal wisdom and vision in a short, memorable and somewhat opaque phrase”– has been a rite of passage for all Chinese leaders since Mao Zedong. Yet, what sets apart Mr Xi’s from the rest is its vagueness in definition and expression. The word ‘dream’ shows an uncanny similarity to the word ‘hope’ used by President Obama in his 2008 election campaign. During Obama’s election campaign he triggered the word ‘hope’ to create an image of difference between him and John McCain, presenting himself as the pioneer of hope for America. The similarities remain the same for Mr Xi as the word ‘dream’ conveys a message that if the domestic and foreign bodies listen and accept the policies of Mr Xi, it will create a dream situation for China. Yet, much like Obama’s hope, the dream seems designed to inspire rather than inform.

Features of the ‘dream’

Whereas the last four decades has seen the emphasis of Chinese economic growth being central to its political mandate; it is evident that more policies towards this direction will only further enhance the social issues inherent in Chinese society today. Many activists believe the issue lies in two areas, the first being political corruption and second being the environment. Mr Xinping has clearly set out his intentions to try and alleviate all forms of corruption including nepotism in the CCP. More transparency may occur, but the Chinese government won’t become clean up overnight. Chinese citizens are pressuring Xi Jinping to crack down on corruption or he could quickly lose their support. But if Mr Xi pushes his Communist cronies to give up the perks of power too quickly, he also risks losing the loyalty of those who keep him in China’s top job. This issue needs to be resolved with caution by the administration as lack of neutrality can lead to discontent on either side.

Furthermore, the environment has become a prominent issue since industrialisation has encompassed the Chinese economy. Pollution in the capital, Beijing, has become so bad that air pollution might have caused about 1.2m premature deaths in China in 2010 alone – a considerable figure even for a country of 1.3bn people. Beijing has registered a 60 per cent rise in lung cancer cases in the past decade. The social implications are vast as many children are forced not to play outside, as the pollution at times is so bad, many find it hard to breathe once they leave a confined building. Yet, it is not just the air that has caused problems. The dumping of pig carcases in Rivers that lead to villages named ‘Disease Villages’ has resulting in many civilians being contracted with life-threatening diseases. Recently, food standards have become an issue for the government as rat meat has been sold under the label of ‘lamb’. More than 900 people and 200,000 tons of illegal meat were captured, according to state news agency Xinhua. The ministry said police had discovered nearly 400 cases involving meat violations. Issues such as these are becoming gradually more important than economic growth in China’s quest to become accepted by the International community.

The problem lies in the intentions of the Chinese state to create a more forceful approach to state control. The American Dream celebrates individualism: work hard and you will reap the rewards. But the Chinese Dream seems to celebrate the collective state: work hard and China will reap the benefits. There is an issue with this. Firstly, due to a globalised Western economy in China, many seek to directly invest in their companies in order to exploit their cheap labour and create a surplus. If the Chinese government is to reap the rewards from these private enterprises, the result may be negative for the Chinese economy.

The features of the ‘Chinese Dream’ render it similar to that of its counterpart, the ‘American Dream’. Whether this is an intentional play by Mr Xi to highlight that there is prosperity in the Eastern model of Government, through communist rule and open economic markets is yet to be seen. With the rise of an urban middle class, no longer are individuals seeking material goods in order to gain social recognition; it is now the ‘dream’ for many to achieve both political and spiritual freedom.








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