The Chinese Dream: Aspiration or Propaganda?

11 Feb

 

When Xi Jinping, the current Chinese President, talks about the Chinese Dream most observers outside of China grow nervous. For many western countries the notion of ‘returning China to its rightful place within the world’ is a threatening and wholly expansionist concept (Grammaticas, 2013b). China’s expanding military power and growing economic strength does little to suppress the concerns of its neighbours. However, within the Chinese public the dream means little more than having the sorts of lifestyle people in London, New York and Sydney currently enjoy (Brown, 2014). This blog post seeks to explore whether this new Communist Party policy is a real aspiration or just propaganda to calm the brewing social unrest.

Some see the China Dream as a real positive step towards China’s future (Patience, 2013). China is the economic success story of the past decade; as a country its economic rise seems unstoppable. With 30 million homes and 609 000km of road built in the last five years, it is obvious that – in terms of economics – China’s pursuit of world dominance is very real (Grammaticas, 2013a). There is also a real desire to reinstate Chinese culture by looking back at China’s long and turbulent past (Brown, 2014). Dream walls have been erected within educational institutions to capture the imagination of students (Patience, 2013). A student interviewed for Patience’s article (2013) said:

‘For students the China Dream is studying hard. But I think the core of the dream is the same: we Chinese must do something for the country’.

Resultantly, it could be argued that the China Dream is a real aspiration held not just by the government but by the people as well. However, is this idea of former glory and becoming a global superpower just the work of an anxious government trying to win back the support of its dissatisfied nation?

The China Dream comes at a time when the Chinese government is facing mounting problems, resultantly many see the policy as a propaganda campaign by the authoritarian state to win back the public’s affection (Patience, 2013). Economic growth is slowing, unsustainable and unbalanced (Grammaticas, 2013a). The wealth gap between rural and urban China has risen 68% since 1985 and China now has one of the widest wealth gaps in Asia. The government is increasingly concerned that this social gap will cause social unrest. Additionally, as Chinese people have become richer and better educated their expectations have drastically changed. They no longer want a government that just creates jobs and wealth. The Chinese people now want better services, a better environment and most threateningly of all to the Chinese government they want political freedom (Foster, 2012). For many, the China dream is simply a propaganda tool designed to increase support for the authoritarian Communist Party.

The China Dream has failed to capture the hearts of the whole nation, suggesting that if it is propaganda, it is failing. Li Chengpeng, one of the country’s best known bloggers states that the problem with the China Dream is that it fails to meet any of the real problems within the authoritarian state (Patience, 2013).

‘We cannot mention universal values or an independent judiciary. We cannot talk about multi-party democracy. What we need is not a magical dream but good politicians’ (Patience, 2013).

This quote clearly highlights the growing unrest within China and again suggests that the China Dream is a concept designed to recapture the support of the public for an authoritarian state.

The reasoning behind the China Dream seem questionable. However, what is clear is that Xi Jinping and his government will continue to rally behind the concept and China will continue to strive for economic dominance over the rest of the world, with or without societies support.

By Holly Murphy

References

Brown, K (2014). ‘In many ways, the ‘China Dream’ is not different from the American one’. The Guardian. 31st of January

Foster, A (2012) ‘China’s new leaders: Challenges ahead’. BBC, 15th of November

Grammaticas, D (2013a) ‘What does the future hold for China?’. BBC, 5th of March

Grammaticas, D (2013b) ‘China’s new President Xi Jinping: A man with a dream’. BBC, 14th of March

Patience, M (2013) ‘What does Xi Jinping’s China Dream mean?’. BBC, 6th of June

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