“Chinese Dream” is a reality show featuring various Chinese people with extraordinary dreams. In each show, the audience participates in deciding whether that week’s contestants will be granted their dream.
Of course, the show is really focused individual dreams. It doesn’t consciously embody any sort of national ethos about THE Chinese Dream.
As Fallows said in a recent speech at the Asia Society in New York:
“For the moment, the only Chinese dream that mattered was the accumulation of individual dreams.”
Indeed, Chinese people I talked to do struggle to answer my Chinese Dream question. It doesn’t help when I ask what faith, and what beliefs hold China together. China, after all — like the United States — is a huge continent composed of dozens of ethnic groups living in different regions with different cultures and languages.
One answer offered by a Chinese friend is that China’s “glue” is “control.” Control by the government holds the nation together. She views ‘control’ as a necessary to keep the nation at peace. “At least at this stage of China’s history, it’s important,” she added. Another obvious answer was “money.” A Beijing acquaintance said that the desire for money drives the Chinese toward a dream of prosperity. When the people assume that justice is out of reach, he explained, money is at least something everyone can hang onto.
Among many Chinese, how one gets rich, or how the country ensures that everyone has a fair shot at getting rich, are issues that don’t seem to matter very much. More accurately, terms like “fairness” and “the means justifying the ends” tend not to pop up in public discourse.
In a nation without national elections, perhaps it’s silly, or at least premature, to ponder abstractions like the Chinese Dream or “the faith of our (Chinese) fathers.” Certainly, such notions are not something requiring lip service from politicians here.
Clearly, the common sentiment among the Chinese, observed in everyday life, comes down to this: “I’ve got mine. You are on your own.” Or, as Fallows said in his book, quoting a Chinese friend: “Everything for my family and friends; nothing for anyone else.”
So, I wonder. Am I alone in thinking that China — supposedly the last great stronghold of Communism — seems to have an awful lot in common, philosophically, with the Republican Party?
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