Originally published on The World Outline, 21 March 2013
A new phrase has stood out recently in the Chinese media, a phrase which featured prominently in the new President Xi Jinping’s inaugural speech on Sunday 17th March. The phrase is ‘the Chinese Dream’. This phrase, which may well define the Xi era, is markedly different from the clunky, technocratic ‘Scientific Method of Development’ of the Hu Jintao era. It attempts to bring people and human emotions to the forefront of Chinese Communist Party rhetoric.
In his speech on Sunday, Xi Jinping, the 59 year-old ‘princeling’ who will rule China for the next decade, made mention of the phrase ‘the Chinese Dream’ nine times. The Chinese Dream was defined by Xi as every Chinese person’s dream, and as dependent on the hard work of all society.
A Xinhua editorial of Monday 18th expanded on the idea of the Chinese Dream. It spoke of the Chinese Dream as encompassing both the ‘little dream’ of improvement of everyday life in China and of the ‘large dream’ of national security and the national economy. It reiterated Xi’s call for the diligence of all China’s 1.3billion people.
Earlier last week, before Xi’s inaugural address, the idea of the ‘Chinese Dream’ occupied a full page spread in the English language edition of China Daily. It featured a number of national figures, such as the country’s first female astronaut, Liu Yang, and one of China’s wealthiest businessmen, Zong Qinghou, offering their interpretation of the Chinese Dream. A similar presentation of the people’s ‘Chinese Dream’ featured on the CCTV news of Monday 18th March.
The Chinese Dream, however, unlike the more familiar American Dream, has very little to do with individuals and their aspirations. Its primary focus, emphasised in all official references to the idea, is on the ‘renaissance’, or ‘renovation’, of the Chinese nation. Xi spoke of the wealth and glory of imperial China and how the China of today is on the brink of re-realising this former glory.
This sentiment was echoed by many of the national figures quoted in the mid-week China Daily feature. It is also a sentiment held by the most of the Chinese population.
The Chinese Dream urges the unity of the people in working towards this common dream of glory for the whole Chinese nation. In his speech, Xi repeatedly stressed the need for this unity. In his final words to the National People’s Congress he called for the diligent work of all nationalities (the Chinese nation consists of 56 officially recognised nationalities), all organisations, all strata of society and all factions within the party.
Nonetheless, the concept of the Chinese Dream marks a shift in party rhetoric to one of a more down-to-earth, human face. This shift in rhetoric parallels the anti-graft policies which aim to reconnect the people and the party. The shift is an early indication of how the CCP of the Xi Jinping era seeks to define itself to both the people of China and of the world.