In the last year or so the Communist party has had a campaign about “The Chinese Dream.” From casual comments with my colleagues it really sounds like the stereotypical American dream.
The Chinese dream seems to include:
- Education for children
- Purchase of a house
- A stable job
- A better future
All of these things seem reasonable. Who wouldn’t want these things?
And then you start to look under the surface. Why is a campaign needed to promote these seemingly basic ideas?
The education system is one that is based purely on rote. There is no imagination, no teamwork taught – the best students are those with the ability to memorize. When I first came I constantly had to push my colleagues who went to the very best schools across the country to think for themselves, to push past my request to the next level. Without the ability to think – what good is an education?
Everyone is getting one though – even my housekeeper’s son is now at university, something that no one could have even dreamed about 50 years ago. The hope for a better future exists.
Housing purchase – in big cities if you don’t have family there to help, purchasing a house can be beyond the dreams of most individuals. Right now where I live in Shanghai a 75 square meter apartment (about 1500 square feet) can sell for 3 to 4 million RMB which is over 500,000 USD. The average monthly income in Shanghai is less than 1000 USD a month. Is purchasing a house possible? Or do you purchase a house so far in the suburbs that it takes over two hours each day to commute, by bus or subway? Is that realistic?
Stability of jobs – most employees of multinational companies stay less than three years. Job hopping has become acceptable – it is the new normal. But – with new graduates the employer of choice is once again the government. The ratio of applicants for the government exam to places was 100 to 1 in some locations. Stability is wanted, but is it happening?
A better future – this I think in China is still possible. The amount of change leads to opportunities that wouldn’t have even been dreams thirty years ago. People with tenacity and smarts can accomplish a lot. China is way beyond Deng Xiao Ping’s wishes of a bicycle for everyone. The best technology in the world and an eager group of folks willing to work for more means that it will never be boring here.
I thought a lot about the Chinese Dream on my recent trip to Anhui province. As I went further into rural China I could see the small shops and farmers drying rice and the constant changing occurring outside of the big cities. It made me think that we are all people and whether you call it the Chinese dream or the American dream – it really is the same. As you move up the ladder, we all want more. It is difficult to feel satisfied, to say – “Enough is enough.”
What is your dream?