Chinese Dream

The China Dream (simplified Chinese: 中国梦; traditional Chinese: 中國夢; pinyin: Zhōngguó mèng) is a term popularized after 2013 within Chinese socialist thought that describes a set of personal and national ideals in the People's Republic of China and the Communist Party of China.[1] It is used by journalists, government officials, and activists to describe the role of the individual in Chinese society as well as the goals of the Chinese nation.[2]

The phrase is closely associated with Xi Jinping, who is the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China. Xi began promoting the phrase as a slogan in a high-profile visit to the National Museum of China in November 2012 after taking the office of general secretary.[3] Since then, use of the phrase has become widespread in official announcements and has become routine party lexicon as the embodiment of the political ideology of the leadership under Xi Jinping.

Xi said that young people should "dare to dream, work assiduously to fulfill the dreams and contribute to the revitalization of the nation."[4] According to the party's theoretical journal Qiushi, the Chinese Dream is about Chinese prosperity, collective effort, socialism, and national glory.[5] The relationship between the phrase and the American Dream has been debated.


Chinese literature

The phrase "China Dream" (中国梦), and the associated idea of a collective hope for restoring China's lost national greatness, have ancient origins in Chinese literary and intellectual history.[6] In the Classic of Poetry (Shi Jing), the poem "Flowing Spring" (下泉) describes a poet waking up in despair after dreaming of the former Western Zhou Dynasty. During the troubled Southern Song Dynasty, the poet Zheng Sixiao wrote a poem in which he coined the phrase "Heart full of [the] China Dream (中国梦), the ancient poem 'Flowing Spring.'"[7] Moreover, popular patriotic literary and theatrical works in early 20th century China also made reference to a "China Dream," before the concept of the "American Dream" was invented in 1931.[6]

The Chinese Dream book

In 2008, architect Neville Mars, author Adrian Hornsby, and the Dynamic City Foundation published "The Chinese Dream a society under construction".[8] The book investigates China's initial wave of rapid urbanization as it transitions to a socialist-market economy. Maps of the emerging spatial forms and analysis of the economic development processes that have originated within the extreme conditions of the 1980s and 1990s are combined with progressive planning concepts and personal portraits of a rapidly changing society. As such it synthesizes a body of research to tackle the main paradoxes at the heart of China’s struggle for change and a more equitable and sustainable future.

According to Mars, "The present is so all-consuming that fast realities threaten to eclipse the slow dream of tomorrow." The overarching premise of the book is that China reveals a direct correlation between its shifting urban forms and its waning societal objectives. In that sense the book has arguably been prophetic. Written eight years ahead of the 12th FYP that holds the same thematic title "The Chinese Dream" (Chinese: 中国梦; pinyin: zhōngguó mèng) it introduces the notion that China's highly fragmented, sclerotic urban patterns determine a path of increasing inefficiency and energy-dependence. Mars introduces the term "MUD", or Market-driven Unintentional Development to describe this new hybrid urban condition, and suggests that planning itself needs to be radically redefined in order to be effective and not contribute to the extreme ex-urbanization. The conclusion of the book is "No New Cities" (杜绝新城), and a call for models of upgrading of existing urban centers and suburbs.

In 2010, author Helen H. Wang published her first book The Chinese Dream.[9] The book is based on over 100 interviews of the new members of the middle class in China. In the book, Wang did not define the Chinese Dream; rather, she conveyed the hopes and dreams of the Chinese people through intimate portraits of this growing demographic.

The Chinese Dream has won Eric Hoffer Book Awards. In 2011, the book was translated into Chinese《中国梦》and published in China. In 2012, the second edition of The Chinese Dream with a foreword by Lord Wei was published. In the foreword, Wei wrote:

“The Chinese Dream today as portrayed in Helen's book speaks of a changing China that is discovering consumerism, that is increasingly globalised, and also at a cross roads. Will her path in years to come continue to be one that resembles that of Western countries with all the benefits of further urbanization,wealth, and industrialization, but at the same time challenges in managing scarce resources, population migration, and the social problems that affluence can bring, elsewhere called 'Affluenza'? Or will the Chinese people themselves inside and outside China create a new sustainable Chinese Dream, based on their ancient values of respect for culture, family, and nature, harnessing technology and creativity?”[8]

In September 2012, Helen H. Wang gave a copy of her book The Chinese Dream to Tom Friedman at a dinner in Shanghai hosted by Peggy Liu, chairwoman of Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy (JUCCCE).

The New York Times

Thomas Friedman's New York Times article has been credited with popularizing the phrase "Chinese Dream" in China.

The British publication The Economist credits a column written by the American journalist Thomas Friedman for popularizing the term in China. A translation of Friedman's article, "China Needs Its Own Dream", published in The New York Times (October 2012) was widely popular in China.[3] Friedman attributes the phrase to Peggy Liu, the founder of the environmentalist NGO JUCCCE. According to Friedman in the magazine Foreign Policy, "I only deserve part credit... the concept of 'China Dream' was created by my friend Peggy Liu, as the motto for her NGO about how to introduce Chinese to the concept of sustainability."[10]

James Fallows of The Atlantic has pointed out that the phrase has frequently been used in the past by journalists. He mentions Deborah Fallow's book Dreaming in Chinese, his own article "What Is the Chinese Dream?", and Gerald Lemos' book The End of the Chinese Dream as examples.[11] In response to Fallows, The Economist cites an article in the Xinhua Daily Telegraph that directly credits Friedman.[12]

“Will the next Chinese leader have a dream that is different from the American dream?” [a paraphrase of a line in Mr Friedman’s column]. In a year of political transition, the world’s gaze is focused on the east. On the eve of the 18th [Communist Party] congress [at which Mr Xi had been appointed as party chief two weeks earlier] the American columnist Thomas Friedman wrote an article devoted to analysis of the “Chinese dream” titled “China Needs Its Own Dream”. It expressed the hope that [the dream would be one that] “marries people’s expectations of prosperity with a more sustainable China”. Suddenly the “Chinese dream” became a hot topic among commentators at home and abroad."
Xinhua Daily Telegraph[12]

The Economist writes that references to Friedman's article have also appeared in other Chinese media outlets, including a translation in The References News, in an article written for China's State Council Information Office, on the cover of the magazine Oriental Outlook as the main caption, in a magazine article published by Frontline, and in an article for a local newspaper written by China’s ambassador to Romania, Huo Yuzhen.[12] In the preface of the Oriental Outlook "Chinese Dream" issue, the editor states that "the 18th national congress of the Chinese Communist Party convened November 8th. "Does the next generation of Chinese leaders have a ‘Chinese Dream’ that is different from the "American Dream"?.... This was a question raised by one of America’s most influential media figures, Thomas Friedman."[12]

Xi Jinping

Main article: Xi Jinping
Xi Jinping, Chinese leader, adopted "Chinese Dream" as a slogan in 2013.

Just after becoming General Secretary of the Communist Party of China in late 2012, Xi announced what would become the hallmark of his administration. "The Chinese Dream," he said, is "the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation." Xi’s Chinese Dream is described as achieving the "Two 100s": the material goal of China becoming a "moderately well-off society" by 2021, the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, and the modernization goal of China becoming a fully developed nation by about 2049, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic.[13]

In May 2013, Xi Jinping called upon young people "to dare to dream, work assiduously to fulfill the dreams and contribute to the revitalization of the nation." He called upon all levels of the Party and the government to facilitate favorable conditions for their career development. Xi told young people to "cherish the glorious youth, strive with pioneer spirit and contribute their wisdom and energy to the realization of the Chinese dream."[4]

According to Robert Lawrence Kuhn, who is an international investment banker and the author of "How China’s Leaders Think: The Inside Story of China’s Reform and What This Means for the Future," the Chinese Dream has four parts: Strong China (economically, politically, diplomatically, scientifically, militarily); Civilized China (equity and fairness, rich culture, high morals); Harmonious China (amity among social classes); Beautiful China (healthy environment, low pollution). Khun states that "a moderately well-off society" is where all citizens, rural and urban, enjoy high standards of living. This includes doubling the 2010 G.D.P. per capita (approaching $10,000 per person) by about 2020 and completing urbanization (roughly one billion people, 70 percent of China’s population) by about 2030. "Modernization" means China regaining its position as a world leader in science and technology as well as in economics and business; the resurgence of Chinese civilization, culture and military might; and China participating actively in all areas of human endeavor.[14]

Reporters have noted that, "Mr Xi had seen the American dream up close, having spent a couple of weeks in 1985 with a rural family in Iowa. (He revisited them during a trip to America last year as leader-in-waiting.)"[15]

The concept of Chinese Dream is very similar to the idea of the "American Dream". It stresses the importance of entrepreneurial spirit. It also glorifies a generation of self-made men and women in post-reform China such as those rural immigrants who moved to the urban centers and achieved magnificent improvement in terms of their living standards and social life. Chinese Dream can be interpreted as the collective consciousness of Chinese people during the era of social transformation and economic progress.

As an aspect of political thought in contemporary China, the emergence of Chinese Dream indicates a diversion of political ideology from egalitarianism to a relatively more libertarian individualist approach. It is worth noting that the concept is still based on collectivism rather than individualism for it sees the subject of Chinese Dream as the people of China as a whole instead of specific individual hero/heroine.

The idea was put forward by the new CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping on 29 November 2012 and repeated by him on numerous important occasions. The Communist Party’s propaganda chief, Liu Yunshan, has directed that the concept of the Chinese dream be incorporated into school textbooks.[16]

In an article for the Huffington Post, French sinologist David Gosset (高大伟) presented the idea that the Liyuan Style is an illustration of the China Dream.[17] China's new First Lady Peng Liyuan is at the intersection of what Gosset calls "Modern China", "Civilizational China" and "Global China".


The Chinese Dream is vaguely defined, and has led to multiple interpretations describing the phrase's meaning.[18]

The Chinese Dream vs. the American Dream

Author Helen H. Wang was one of the first to connect the Chinese Dream with the American Dream. In her book The Chinese Dream,[8] Wang wrote: "The Chinese Dream, taking its title from the American Dream, alluding to an easily identifiable concept..." Wang attempts to demonstrate that the Chinese people have similar dreams as those of the American people. "This new [Chinese] middle class." Wang wrote, "which barely existed a decade ago, will reach the size of more than two Americas in a decade or two. They number in the hundreds of millions, with the same hopes and dreams that you and I have: to have a better life, to give our children an even better life...". Wang has also claimed that "Chinese people must define their own dream".[19]

Sustainable development

The China Dream has been defined as sustainable development.[20] Peggy Liu and the NGO JUCCCE coined the phrase "China Dream" as a movement based on sustainability,[21] which was later popularized in China through a New York Times article and adopted by Xi Jinping.[10] Pollution and food safety are popular concerns in China.[21] Cities are frequently covered by smog and the country's rivers are polluted with industrial waste.[22] China's rising middle class is expected to increase by 500 million people by 2025 and will continue to put a strain on the country's dwindling resources.[20] According to Liu, the Chinese Dream of sustainability can be achieved through the promotion of green technologies and the reduction of widespread conspicuous consumption.[21] China's high growth has caused widespread environmental damage, and without environmental reforms, the deterioration could threaten the legitimacy of the Communist Party.[20] The Chinese Dream is a dream of a prosperous lifestyle reconciled with a sustainable lifestyle.[21]

National renewal

The Chinese Dream has been viewed as a call for China's rising international influence. Xi Jinping refers to the dream as a form of national rejuvenation.[23] Young Chinese are envious of America's cultural influence and hope that China could one day rival the US as a cultural exporter.[24] Members of Chinese military support China's military development, opining that the "strong-nation dream of a great revival of the Chinese people" can only result from a "strong-army dream". United States Secretary of State John Kerry has promoted the idea of a "Pacific Dream" to accommodate China's rise through regional collaboration over shared interests like the environment and economic growth.[12]

Individual dreams

Many Chinese have interpreted the Chinese dream as the pursuit of individual dreams. Evan Osnos of The New Yorker concludes that "Xi Jinping has sought to inspire his people by raising the flag of the China Dream, but they have interpreted it as China Dreams—plural."[23] The Chinese Dream is defined according to an individual's personal aspirations and desires, which may lead to "the proliferation of 1.3 billion China Dreams."[23] Sujian Guo and Baogang Guo argue, "To a great extent, the American dream has been exported to China and has become the Chinese dream."[25] But according to official party journal Qiushi, the Chinese Dream is not about individual glory, but about collective effort.[5] Measuring public sentiment on Sina Weibo, Christopher Marquis and Zoe Yang of found that the Chinese Dream refers more to the common goods bestowed by civil society than it does to individual achievements.[26]

Economic and political reform

Some government officials and activists view the Chinese Dream as a need for economic and political reform.[27] Sustaining China's economic growth requires economic reform encompassing urbanization, the reduction of government bureaucracy, and weakening the power of special interests.[27][28] Chinese liberals have defined the Chinese Dream as a dream of constitutionalism. Southern Weekly, a liberal newspaper based in Guangzhou, attempted to publish an editorial titled "The Chinese dream: a dream of constitutionalism" which advocated the separation of powers, but was censored by the authorities.[18] Both Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang support economic reform, but have shied away from discussing political reform. Premier Li has said that "But however deep the water may be, we will wade into the water. This is because we have no alternative. Reform concerns the destiny of our country and the future of our nation."[27] According to official party sources, the Chinese Dream is the "essence of Socialism with Chinese characteristics".[1]

In October 2013, Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, described the Chinese Dream as a political reform that includes "rebalancing from investment to consumption".[29]

See also


  1. 1 2 Central Party School/Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. "The Chinese Dream infuses Socialism with Chinese characteristics with New Energy". Qiushi. Retrieved 9 June 2013.
  2. "Chasing the Chinese dream," The Economist May 4, 2013, pp 24-26]
  3. 1 2 "Xi Jinping and the Chinese Dream," The Economist May 4, 2013, p 11 (editorial)
  4. 1 2 Yang Yi, "Youth urged to contribute to realization of 'Chinese dream'", Xinhuanet 2013-05-04
  5. 1 2 Shi, Yuzhi (20 May 2013). 中国梦区别于美国梦的七大特征 [Seven reasons why the Chinese Dream is different from the American Dream]. Qiushi (in Chinese). Central Party School/Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. Retrieved 9 June 2013.
  6. 1 2 Ryan Mitchell, “Clearing Up Some Misconceptions About Xi Jinping’s ‘China Dream”, The Huffington Post, August 20, 2015
  7. Qiangan, Wang. "The Origin of the Words" China Dream." Contemporary China History Studies 6 (2013): 020.
  8. 1 2 3 Neville Mars, Adrian Hornsby (2008). The Chinese Dream a society under construction.
  9. Helen H. Wang (2010, 2012). The Chinese Dream: The Rise of the World's Largest Middle Class. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  10. 1 2 Fish, Isaac Stone (May 3, 2013). "Thomas Friedman: I only deserve partial credit for coining the 'Chinese dream'". Foreign Policy.
  11. Fallows, James (May 3, 2013). "Today's China Notes: Dreams, Obstacles". The Atlantic.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 "The role of Thomas Friedman". The Economist. May 6, 2013.
  15. "Chasing the Chinese dream," The Economist May 4, 2013, p 25]
  16. "Chasing the Chinese dream," The Economist May 4, 2013, pp 24-26]
  17. Gosset, David (2013-05-22). "The China Dream and the Liyuan Style". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2013-06-13.
  18. 1 2 "Chasing the Chinese dream". The Economist. May 4, 2013.
  19. Helen H. Wang (Feb. 2013), "Chinese People Must Define Their Own Dream", Forbes.
  20. 1 2 3 Friedman, Thomas (October 2, 2012). "China Needs Its Own Dream". The New York Times.
  21. 1 2 3 4 Liu, Peggy (13 June 2012). "China dream: a lifestyle movement with sustainability at its heart". The Guardian.
  22. Rachman, Gideon (May 6, 2013). "The Chinese dream is smothered by toxic smog". Financial Times.
  23. 1 2 3 Osnos, Evan (March 26, 2013). "Can China deliver the China dream(s)?". New Yorker.
  24. Tatlow, Didi Kirsten (January 12, 2011). "Nationalistic and Chasing the 'Chinese Dream'". The New York Times.
  25. Sujian Guo; Baogang Guo (2010). Greater China in an Era of Globalization. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 20.
  27. 1 2 3 Jane, Cai (18 March 2013). "Xi Jinping outlines his vision of 'dream and renaissance'". South China Morning Post.
  28. Bishop, Bill (May 13, 2013). "As China's Economy Stumbles, Government Eyes Reform". New York Times.
  29. "Chancellor's speech to students at Peking University". Retrieved 16 October 2013. China too is striving under its new leadership to achieve more balanced and sustainable growth – and for you that means the opposite. Rebalancing from investment to consumption. This is part of Xi’s vision to achieve the ‘China Dream’.

Further reading

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