Dec 6, 2012

World - The American, European or Chinese Dream?

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In the 20th century the United States effectively marketed the American Dream – the idea that anyone, regardless of social or economic background, could achieve upward mobility, prosperity and success through hard honest graft. Americans largely bought into this idea and many immigrants poured into the US in search of the opportunity for making a better life. Some achieved success, enough to perpetuate the mythical status of the Dream.

Among some immigrant groups, particularly Asians, the American Dream has resonated. It would be simplistic and stereotyping to lump all Asian immigrants and Asian Americans in the same category, however.

A recent Pew report, entitled “The Rise of Asian Americans”, demonstrates Indian Americans’ successes in the US in terms of income, political satisfaction, etc., though it was also criticized for its uniform treatment of Asian and South Asian groups.

The Pew report noted that the Indian economic climate has shifted dramatically in recent years, which has led Indian Americans to be less positive about conditions in the home country. Almost 60 percent are dissatisfied with economic conditions in India, but reported high levels of satisfaction with the U.S. economic climate.

According to Pew’s findings, US Asians in general have the highest income levels, and are the most educated group in the country by far. Read the overview of the report here.

While the American Dream is largely spiritual or an intangible “feeling” for many, it has been closely linked to material wealth and American consumer culture – a culture that has become increasingly globalized in recent years. Real success rates have also prompted many to question the validity of the American Dream.

The European Dream: Challenging the American myth

In 2004 American author Jeremy Rifkin published The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream, highlighting modern European successes. Rifkin cited (among other things) favorable economic conditions, wealth distribution, quality of life, literacy, homicide rates, market regulation and aspects of political life in the European Union in comparison with those in the US.

But this is 2012. Try asking many Europeans – especially those in Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland – about how the current model of the “European Dream” is working out for them. Come to think of it, ask Americans the same question.

Collective, inclusive, global: Make way for the “Chinese Dream”

Xi Jinping, the new General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, believes in the Chinese Dream, equating it with “the great renewal of the Chinese nation”.

As a whole, China is now the world’s second largest economy and a legitimate world power.

I believe that by the time when the Communist Party of China marks its 100th founding anniversary (2020), the goal to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects will be inevitably achieved.

–Xi Jinping

The General Secretary has addressed the democratic ideals of the Revolution and the development-centered goals of the post-Mao period. He spoke of how the pursuit of money has resulted in a “crisis of faith, integrity and credibility”.

Establishing a Chinese Dream – facilitated by China’s modernization, opening up to the outside world and sharing with it – confronts the aforementioned crisis and aims to build a “friendly, harmonious society”.

Sounds great, but how inclusive and how collective has China’s economic growth been? How democratic are its present and future? What about a Chinese Dream that chimes with what the people want, rather than the economic goals of the central and provincial governments? We can see from recent protests, how many Chinese are not happy with the environmental problems that development brings and their lack of input in what happens in their own communities.

Read more on the Chinese Dream in the People’s Daily.

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