No clash between Chinese and American dreams

Updated: 2013-06-07 08:13

By Zhang Zhouxiang (China Daily)

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Before finishing my special study tour to the United States in March, I visited Washington DC, where my last stop was the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Standing beneath his statue, I could hear his historic speech reverberating: "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed that all men are created equal."

It was also in the US that I watched from TV the 2013 session of the National People's Congress and listened to President Xi Jinping's inaugural address, in which he declared: "That all people, living in this great land and this great epoch, enjoy equal opportunities toward a colorful life, toward realization of their dreams "

Some scholars have distinguished the "American Dream" as individualistic and the "Chinese Dream" as collectivistic. That may be true given the difference in the two countries' histories, cultures and approaches to social life. But there is no denying that both dreams emphasize the importance of people's welfare and national prosperity.

When Martin Luther King talked about racial equality and personal liberty, he was echoing the call of his audience's heart. They were people who had been suffering from racial discrimination and loved equality and personal freedom more than their lives.

The same applies to China, a great nation that fell prey to the global power game more than a century and half ago. Anybody familiar with contemporary Chinese history - one of invasions and people's sufferings - will understand China's quest for renaissance. Accordingly, the Chinese Dream emphasizes national greatness, while the American Dream focuses on individual success. Just as President Xi said at an exhibition in November: "National rejuvenation is the Chinese dream."

But the two dreams are not contradictory. In fact, they have many factors in common. For example, both are dreams of the people. US presidents often use "every American" in their speech. Similarly, Xi has said: "The Chinese dream is that of the Chinese people." Both the dreams are in line with people's interests, which is also the key to their realization.

Equal opportunity for all is another common factor of the two dreams. Just as Americans believe that everyone should have the opportunity to make it big in life, the Chinese people believe that sweat should be rewarded with harvest. After several recent scandals revealed how family background still plays a decisive role in a person's future, calls for equal opportunity for all have become louder.

While more than half of the respondents to a recent survey in China said equal opportunity for all was the first of their dreams, a US poll showed that equal opportunities were the top dream of Americans.

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