上网时间: 2012年09月14日? 作者:Junko Yoshida? 我来评论 【字号: ? ?小】


Yoshida in China: What is the Chinese Dream?

Junko Yoshida

SHANGHAI, China – Last week, while serious citizens in the United States were watching the Democratic National Convention unfold, I was in Shenzhen. But I was able to catch up with a few convention speeches on my iPad. The last thing I expected, however, was for the DNC to be a topic of water cooler conversation in China.

I had barely sat down with my Chinese girlfriend at a Starbucks in busy downtown Shenzhen before she asked me about Michele Obama.

The Chinese woman, who saw the First Lady’s speech on the Internet, summarized its essence as putting “family” and “faith” foremost in life. My friend can’t imagine any political leader in her country uttering such sentiments. Ordinary Chinese would be at a loss if asked what “faith” he or she professes, she added. If anything, life’s priorities in China are to work hard and earn money.

Of course, I replied that Americans, too, believe in working hard and making money, because after all that’s what pays the bills and we all need to live. Putting “family” and “faith” first is an aspirational goal. Some Americans actually do put these ideals first; others don’t.

The difference might be the American conviction that it’s important to spell out and remind one another that we are held together by common values. The values conversation gets amplified during a presidential election year.

The so-called American Dream is a grand myth. But the myth lives on in the United States, because it’s ingrained in the national ethos. Former Democratic leader Robert Strauss expressed it humorously by saying that the perfect presidential candidate is a man who was born in a log cabin that he built himself.

My Chinese friend looked puzzled when I started talking about the American Dream. I had to explain that, of course, the American Dream isn’t necessarily about becoming the President of the United States, or becoming the richest man in the country. The dream is to ensuring equal opportunity, so that everyone has a chance to succeed.

My question to her was: What’s the Chinese Dream?

Journalist James Fallows popped that question in the Atlantic Monthly a few years ago. He further articulated it in his latest book "China Airborne" and in a special report in the magazine.

It’s a great question, and it sticks in my mind.

A few months ago, a friend living in Beijing reminded me, “Junko, there is even a TV show in China called ‘Chinese Dream.’ It’s very popular. Of course, China has a Chinese Dream!”

Control? Money?

“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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