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Pursuing the Right “Dream”

The “China Dream” which the country’s newly installed leaders are promoting is largely a vision of economic growth and prosperity, couched in terms of national pride and increasing strength vis-a-vis the international community. This vision of a strong and prosperous country is not new; late-Qing reformers and May 4th activists alike sounded a similar call, and progress a century later is still measured against the backdrop of this longstanding national struggle.

The “dream” as characterized by China’s leaders, however, differs greatly from the aspirations of many Chinese today. An analysis of thousands of domestic blog posts on the theme of the “China Dream,” conducted last year by the blog site Tea Leaf Nation, revealed that mentions of economic gain were virtually non-existent in popular online discussions. This, in stark contrast to the predominate emphasis on economic growth in the official version. Instead, these comments focused on improving the quality of life, access to safe food, affordable housing, a better natural environment, access to education, and social justice. Those commenting were not a disaffected minority who had lost out in China’s economic reform. Rather they represented the mainstream of China’s emerging middle class urban, upwardly mobile, well-educated, and well-networked through technology.

These who are on the receiving end of the fruits of reform have come to the conclusion that economic growth alone cannot usher in the kind of society promised by the “China dream.” On the contrary, China’s headlong rush to material prosperity has laid bare the serious lack of a moral and spiritual foundation on which to build a just and fair society.

Chinese society is at an inflection point in its collective inquiry into what’s needed to create the new society which the “dream” promises but has not been able to deliver. Whether in the halls of academia or on the street corner, people are asking the right questions.

This ongoing public discussion provides fertile ground for China’s Christians, many of whom have taken to the internet to add their own voices to the conversation. A selection of these may be found on Chinese Church Voices, which features English translations of online articles and blog posts by Christians in China. Now in its second year, Chinese Church Voices seeks to provide a window into how believers in China see their role in a nation racing forward to pursue an ever-elusive dream. We welcome your comments, suggestions and contributions.

Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton is the founder of ChinaSource.  Dr. Fulton served as the first president of ChinaSource until 2019. Prior to his service with ChinaSource, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding …View Full Bio

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