China does not want to return to its imperial roots but instead wants to become a middle-class country with a "harmonious society", a senior Communist Party official said.
Kong Genhong, an associate research director of party's international department, made the comments in party magazine Contemporary World in an article he wrote in which he tried to explain President Xi Jinping's newest propaganda slogan the “Chinese dream”.
“The 'Chinese dream' has a new objective and significance,” he wrote.
“It is to build an overall middle-class (xiaokang) society by the centenary of the founding of China's Communist Party and to build a modernised state with a prosperous, strong, democratic and civilised harmonious society by the centenary of the founding of the New China.”
Arguing that China will not return to the practices of the Chinese empire, which lasted for more than two millennia, Kong tried to dispel “concerns among a minority of neighbouring countries that they will again be subordinate countries that have to pay tribute to China”.
Imperial China considered itself at the centre of the world and exchanged tribute, often only symbolic, with neighbouring countries. This worldview collapsed with the gradual infringement of Western powers in the 19th century.
“The 'Chinese dream' is not a return to old glories,” Kong wrote. “It is to continue and surpass historical glories.”
China has always had a “dream”, but has, until now, “not found the right direction for its dream”, he argued. Xi first spoke of his “Chinese dream” when he was visiting the National Museum in November shortly after assuming the leadership of the Communist Party.
The slogan has turned into a catchword for those who support the party's regime and is also an object of ridicule for those who oppose it.
Most reactions online were sceptical.
“Please add the premise ‘I think’ to your article. I don’t want to be represented,” commented one person.
“[The] 'Chinese dream' is the dream of those who are powerful and rich. Common people can only have day dreams,” wrote another.