• Fri
  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 4:42pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 May, 2013, 4:45am

To dream the un-Chinese dream

It's either a sad reflection on today's China or an example of its increasing freedom of movement, but a growing number of Chinese plan to leave the country. That's their dream - to start a new life in Australia, Canada, or best of all the US. Even some African countries and tiny Hong Kong will do as a stepping stone to the West. I am not talking about corrupt officials and rich businessmen who need to skip town, but ordinary mainlanders.

Call it their un-Chinese dream. In 2010, 508,000 mainlanders left for the 34 developed countries that make up the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a 45 per cent jump from 2000. In 2011, the US took in 87,000 permanent residents from China, up from 70,000 the year before. Of these, mainland Chinese made up twice the number of recipients of investment-based US green cards than all other nationalities combined.

If you ask them whether they share President Xi Jinping's Chinese dream of a resurgent and powerful nation, I am sure most would say yes. But though on average they are much better off than the majority of Chinese, many feel insecure, whether from food scares, bad air and health care costs or potential political and financial instability. Many want their children to study abroad and stay there if they can.

Like most Chinese, I share Xi's nationalistic dream, up to a point! I wouldn't call it my dream, though. I rather fantasise about writing "the great Chinese novel" that would turn into an international bestseller. Real dreams, fantasies and ambitions are highly personal. Even Xi's dream is personal because he is the leader of the nation. So of course he wants it to be great, rich and powerful. The bottom line is, it's hard to "nationalise" dreams - not if you are talking about authentic longings and ambitions, rather than state-imposed propaganda.

Whatever you say about the American dream, clearly the source of Xi's idea, it's been powerful enough to attract immigrants over almost two centuries. Will the Chinese dream be enough to keep the Chinese contented in their own country?

At the moment, it sounds like a trite and airy exaltation. Xi will only succeed if it becomes authentic for most Chinese - and who knows, maybe even a few foreigners.


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This article is now closed to comments

Math sometimes gives us a sense of magnitude that bases on numbers on selected context. Here a number of 87,000 (accepting it as accurate) shouldn’t be seen as a very small fraction of billions of Chinese population. But it should also be understood in the context of the countries which these students attended. Not promising in the long run in those countries.
It reminds me of the exodus of HKers in the 90s to Canada, Australia, the US. Once their curiosity about the foreign countries is satisfied, most of them will return empty hands. Just like most HKers returning to Red China Hong Kong. Besides 87000 out of 14b is a very low figure to be of any significance.
What made the ‘American Dream’ great is that it is an open dream defined by the individuals who went to live in America. In contrast, the ‘Chinese Dream’ by Xi is one that has limitations and a strangle-hold on the heart of its people and its potential creativity. It is also one that does not allow its people to criticise its government and communist party. ‘Aspirations’ flourishes from freedom (of which the Chinese citizens are still very much fighting for).
It seems that the Chinese dream is simply to leave China behind.
Brain drain!
I would rather say it ignoramus drain.
It is much easier to keep people in than out once upon a time in China. Great Wall in ancient past and Mao’s youth for nation building in recent past. But it is no more. It is more like government encouraging the young Chinese to go abroad for study (with government scholarships) or not. Why not? The more they leave the country the less burdened is on the nation. The unprogressive education system, the lack of good jobs and the worldwide search even for food source aren’t problems to be overcome tomorrow if population keeps expanding. Exporting not goods but people seems is a solution. Should China continue its one-child policy? The reality says yes. China has plenty of young folks to share with the rest of the world for lands still have plenty. But stay away from Hong Kong because not only it is running out of land to live but Hong Kong has enough of problems to solve.


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