THE BLOG

The China Dream and the Liyuan Style

After becoming China's President in March 2013, Xi Jinping visited Russia and three African countries, his second foreign trip will take him to Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica, Mexico and the U.S.

When Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the first female prime minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, officially announced the event, she mentioned the China Dream but she also added, in an interesting association, that Peng Liyuan, China's First Lady, will accompany Xi during his American tour. In the Xi Jinping decade, China's First Couple operates as the medium of a message of dynamism, openness and confidence.

While the West seems preoccupied by the conservation of an obsolete global order, China drives the making of a new world. The former expects the post crisis period to be similar to the pre-crisis situation, the latter anticipates a future which will be increasingly conform with its interests and intentions.

Concept and project, definition and positioning of a nation in a century of change, Xi Jinping's China Dream can be presented as a triptych, the visions of "Modern China," "Global China" and "Civilizational China."

"Modern China" is the recognition of the achievements which have been accomplished since the Republic of Sun Yatsen but it is also the hope for even greater advancement.

While economic development and socio-political transformation in post imperial China took hundreds of millions out of poverty, liberated the Chinese women -- "Women hold up half the sky" said Mao Zedong - and extended for all the life expectancy -- 41 years in 1950, 76 now -- Deng Xiaoping's effort of "Reform and Opening up" remains a catalyst for improvement across the Chinese society.

Internally transformed by more than 100 years of modernization, "Global China" has become the world's most significant factor of change. In a new version of the Tang dynasty, the Middle Country is absorbing foreign ideas and practices, but it also projects itself globally with the awareness that interdependence and cooperation characterize the 21st century. In the China Dream, peace is to "Global China" what progress is to "Modern China," a reality and an ideal.
The affirmation of "Global China" comes without any missionary spirit, its horizon is not hegemony or even leadership but the return to the centrality of the Middle Country.

When Beijing recently welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hard on the heels of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and publicly issued a four-point proposal for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the Middle Country, assuming the role of a mediator, was effectively in a position of centrality.

By contrast with the American Dream, the China Dream can not be a narrative of pure newness, it is a future with the memory of 5,000 years of history, a movement of renaissance expressed in the vision of "Civilizational China."

In architecture, design, fashion and in the arts, a renewed Chinese aesthetics is gradually imposing itself, from tea to calligraphy, the Chinese savors and forms have been revitalized.
"Civilizational China" aims to reinvent the Chinese classical culture but it is also the reinterpretation of traditional notions. While quantitative growth is transforming the life of the Chinese people, harmony has become the imperative to take into account the environmental factor, the call to maintain the equilibrium between material development and sustainability.
If the China Dream indicates more a collective ambition than an individual aspiration, and, in that sense, the translation of Zhongguo Meng by Chinese dream might be misleading, the Chinese citizens have already recognized living expressions of their national metamorphosis.
In what can be interpreted as a happy coincidence but also as a revealing synchronicity, China's First Lady, Peng Liyuan, or what the Chinese cybersphere calls the Liyuan Style -- Liyuan Feng - is the symbol of the country's spirit.

Perfectly at ease with foreign dignitaries, ambassador of a reinvigorated Chineseness, poised, the Chinese First Lady stands at the intersection of "Modern China," "Global China" and "Civilizational China," reminiscent of Soong Ching-Ling, the wife of Sun Yatsen, and Soong May-Ling, the spouse of Chiang Kai-shek, she is the new face of the China Dream.
Correspondence between the message, the China Dream, and the medium, China's First Couple, the Xi Jinping decade starts with a master class in communication on a grand scale.

David Gosset is director of the Academia Sinica Europaea at China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), Shanghai, Beijing & Accra, and founder of the Euro-China Forum.

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