Defining the Chinese Dream

Defining the Chinese Dream. Coined as a new buzzword, the “Chinese Dream” is something talked about increasingly by academics and politicians alike. With the last two centuries defined first by the British Dream and then the American Dream, this century is looking likely that it will be defined by the Chinese Dream. But what is the Chinese Dream? Is the Chinese Dream about money and business opportunities? Looking at the way that the western powers seem to be pandering for Chinese support, it does seem likely that the Chinese Dream is about wealth creation and power consolidation.


By William Li


Looking around the world, it seems that people are not so much living the Chinese Dream, but more “dreaming about the Chinese”, and specifically, dreaming about Chinese money. Let us be honest, let us be brave, China is a growing power, and the shift of power from West to East in the last 20 years has been both swift and stark. Sadly, in this day and age, money defines power and respect. So when we talk about the Chinese Dream, at least in its current form, let us be brutally honest, it’s about economics, it’s about cash, and it’s about accumulating as much wealth as possible.

A bleak picture you might say, but I reply no. Quite too often, when we talk about dreams, we talk around them. It’s conceptual, it’s idealistic. Such is the nature of dreams. And when we talk about the Chinese Dream, we do talk about hope and opportunities, in very much the same way that the British Dream and the American Dream was about hope and opportunities, free will and equality.  The Chinese Dream is meant to be ideal, it’s meant to make us think, and such things are never meant to be tied down in too concrete forms.  But let us also be aware of everyone currently “dreaming of the Chinese” – of people who see the financial power of China and let us realise that the world is not watching China right now because of its history or its culture or what it has done for the world.  People are pragmatic creatures, and governments the most pragmatic of all. The dreaming of today, is the dreaming of Chinese wealth.  And bluntly, it’s the dream of how to acquire as much as possible of that Chinese wealth.

But is this where it stops? No, I say to you, this is where it starts. Instead of just talking about defining the Chinese Dream, we should also be talking about Redefining the Chinese Dream. Let’s be aware of how people perceive China, both true and false, and let us redefine their perceptions.  We are at the cusp of great things to come. We are at the start of the Chinese Dream, a start, where we can create a dream of hope, a dream of opportunities.  Greed is good…in moderation. Greed makes as strive, greed makes as reach.  Wealth creation is not necessarily a bad thing, but there are wider issues to consider. Let’s dream about sustainability, let’s dream about social enterprise, let’s dream about changing the world. China is a country that holds one sixth of the world’s population; in pure numbers, it’s capable of great things.

Let us recognise the capacity of the Chinese Dream, let us explore the rich history and culture of China. Instead of just focusing on the economic rewards, let’s also look at society and how to create social change. For the next hundred years, the spotlight will be on China and the Chinese. The question is, what will people see? And the question for each of us, is what do we want people to see?. Will China be a beacon for hope? of dreams? of free will and self determination? Or will it merely be the world’s bank?, the county that everyone looks to when they are short of money?

Critics talk of the tyranny of China, both in terms of its treatment of people and as a terrifying global power. These are not issues to gloss over but nor are these issues things which we can change over night.  And change is very much part of the Chinese Dream. A dream where China is no longer criticised for its politics or its human rights record.  A dream where China enters… or reenters the world stage as global leader, as a nation of hope, as a beacon of inspiration.  China will change. With it now taking centre stage and the focus of the international community, it has to change.  But the question is how will it change.  And the answer to that is, it will change depending on the strength of its dream.  The dream of the average person on the street.  The dream of husbands, of wives, of children.  A dream of hope, a dream of opportunities, a dream of progress.  The Chinese Dream is all of these things and yet it is also none of them.

We talk about the Chinese Dream, and yet sometimes we forget the nature of dreams. Intangible, incontrollable. insubstantial.  A dream can be a wishful thing, no more than a passing fancy, but let’s not also forget the power of dreams, the power of a man who dares to dream, who had a dream.  And so I say to you, believe in your dreams, dreams of hope, dreams of change, dreams of better things.  And don’t just dream. Live.  Live for hope. Live for change. Live for progress.

China has a future, but will it have a future that we can be proud of? In a hundred years’ time, when they talk about the Chinese century and the Chinese Dream, what will they say? What do you want them to say?

Let us be aware of China, of its culture, of its history, both past and present.  Let us not gloss over the facts. Let’s be grounded in reality. But let us also look at things we can change, things we can improve.  Let’s define the Chinese Dream, not by what it is, but what we want it to be.  The Chinese Dream should be one of choice, of discovery, of constantly defining and redefining who we are, and what we are. It’s about improving ourselves, our society, our country. It’s about looking inside, to discover what we want and what we want to be proud of. And then, when we are ready, let us dream.. a Chinese Dream.

About the Author:

William Li is a practising English solicitor. He is also the London Representative for the China Britain Law Institute (中英律师交流协会) and on the executive committee of Chinese Entrepreneurs Global (全球华人创业家联盟), a non profit organisation aimed at promoting entrepreneurship within the Chinese community in a global context.


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