A recent poll by The New York Times shows that fewer and fewer people in the United States believe in the “American dream.” The poll asked the question: Do you believe you can start out poor in this country, work hard and become rich? Only 64 percent of Americans said “yes.”
Trust in the American dream may be disappearing. But halfway around the world, a new dream has been gaining strength – the Chinese dream.
To be exact: Xi Jinping’s Chinese dream.
In his November 2012 speech as the new leader of the Communist Party, President Xi said, “I believe that realizing the great revival of the Chinese nation is the greatest dream of the Chinese nation in modern times.”
The expression “Chinese dream” has since become President Xi Jinping’s political slogan. But, what is the Chinese dream? And how has President Xi started to make that dream a reality?
The beginning of a dream
The term ‘Chinese dream’ was actually first used by environmental groups and the U.S. media. One New York Times story by reporter Thomas Friedman appeared in newspapers across China.
In that story, Mr. Friedman wrote, “if Xi’s dream for China’s emerging middle class — 300 million people expected to grow to 800 million by 2025 — is just like the American Dream (a big car, a big house and Big Macs for all) then we need another planet.”
The story started a discussion on Chinese social media. Chinese newspapers and the Xinhua news agency even created special sections about the topic.
Xi’s Chinese dream
Dieter Ernst is with the East-West Center. The center promotes better relations and understanding between the United States and countries in Asia and the Pacific.
He says President Xi’s Chinese dream has three key parts: strengthen China, improve prosperity, and increase China’s military power.
“What he (Xi) really tries to do is, he wants to signal a serious commitment to rejuvenate Chinese society and economy. And that is part – since third forum in October 2013 – that’s actually part of a very consistent strategy pursued by the then-new leadership.”
In recent months, China has taken clear steps toward becoming stronger both domestically and globally.
That includes the anti-corruption campaign against top officials in the Communist Party, beginning with Bo Xilai and continuing with the recent case against Zhou Yongkang.
Jon Huntsman, the former U.S. ambassador to China, spoke December 18 at an event in Washington, D.C. He said Mr. Xi is trying to restore the people’s trust in the Party with the “high-profile displays.”
Mr. Huntsman also said the anti-corruption campaign has “gone well beyond” what anyone would have expected two years ago.
In the past year, China has increasingly demonstrated its military strength in disputes with its neighbors. For example, it established an air defense identification area over islands administered by Japan. It also claimed sovereignty over a group of islands in the South China Sea.
“Finally after all these years of historically being suppressed, or prevented from developing, if China is now able to fulfill its dream, then it can become a much more responsible actor in the international context.”
Mr. Ernst says he has seen important signs of China’s desire to compromise on international issues.
China reached two major agreements last month with the United States. One was a historic climate agreement. China also reached a major information technology trade deal with the U.S.
U.S. President Barack Obama has called President Xi’s rise to power impressive. At a recent meeting in Washington, Mr. Obama said of Mr. Xi, "He has consolidated power faster and more comprehensively than probably anybody since Deng Xiaoping.”
‘Not so easy to dream’
One of President Xi’s difficulties in reaching the Chinese dream may be changing the idea of success in China, Mr. Ernst says.
“Right now, success means making money. And quick, without any concern for the social and environmental consequences. So people, including members of the leadership, are concerned about this.”
For many Chinese citizens, it is not always easy to believe in the Chinese dream. Mr. Ernst says one major reason for this is the country’s severe pollution problem.
“What is the most important thing you experience? Pollution. When you’re a young couple and you have kids, it’s not so easy to dream. Because you have to deal with very concrete health concerns.”
The Chinese dream is not just for a richer and more powerful China, but a cleaner China. President Xi and the Chinese government know this.
President Xi spoke about the environment in November at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing.
He said, “Every day we will see a blue sky, green mountains and clear rivers, not just in Beijing, but all across China so that our children will live in an enjoyable environment.”
I’m Ashley Thompson.
Ashley Thompson wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Hai Do and Caty Weaver were the editors.
Words in this Story
poll – n. an activity in which several or many people are asked a question or a series of questions in order to get information about what most people think about something
slogan – n. a word or phrase that is easy to remember and is used by a group or business to attract attention
prosperity – n. the state of being successful usually by making a lot of money
sovereignty – n. unlimited power over a country or region
consequence – n. something that happens as a result of a particular action or set of conditions