Seminar on Chinese Dream: a dream shared by the world

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Editor's note: The International Dialogue on the Chinese Dream concluded in Shanghai on Dec. 8, 2013. The two-day event offered a diverse range of views on how the Chinese dream will shape China’s future and how it relates to the world. Experts from over twenty countries attended the dialogue, hosted by China's State Council Information Office and jointly organized by China International Publishing Group and Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. The following is the excerpts from some experts' speeches.

Kenneth Lieberthal, senior researcher of the Brookings Institution, gives a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of International Dialogue on the Chinese Dream in Shanghai on Dec.7, 2013. []

Kenneth Lieberthal, senior researcher of the Brookings Institution, gives a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of International Dialogue on the Chinese Dream in Shanghai on Dec.7, 2013. []

"Chinese Dream and China's Governance"

Kenneth Lieberthal

The Brookings Institution

China's new leadership has sought to inspire the country with its call to realize the "Chinese Dream."

We know some things about the goals of that "dream":

• Overcome the legacies of the "century of humiliation"

• Successfully achieve a wealthy and strong country" (富强国家)

• Rejuvenate the Chinese folk (复兴中华民族)-- something that goes beyond narrow national state boundaries

While many specifics remain unclear at this point, the new Chinese leadership has provided some broad guidelines to major components of the Chinese Dream. A partial list of these includes:

• Fairer distribution of the benefits of economic development, including reducing urban-rural differences.

• Building an ecological civilization, where greater attention will be paid to addressing the major environmental issues of air pollution, water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, etc.

• Shifting the development model to one that is based more on domestic household consumption, innovation, and efficiency and is less based on exports and investment.

• Creating the institutional capacity to provide the services and related requirements for dealing with a massive demographic transition to an elderly society over the coming two decades.

• Reducing the government's administrative interference in the economy so that by 2020 market forces will play a "decisive" role in the allocation of resources.

• Maintaining social stability in part though upholding the monopoly on political power of the CCP, with measures taken to improve the quality of the CCP itself (such as through fighting corruption) and increasing its skills at social governance.

China's leaders face an extraordinarily complicated set of obstacles in trying to achieve these and related goals that are central components of successfully pursuing the Chinese Dream. Most of these are well known, such as:

• The most rapid demographic transition in peacetime history, and the first that will produce a country whose population is old before the country in per capita terms is rich.

• Resource scarcity – especially the scarcity of usable water in the North China Plain but extending on a per capita basis to most types of natural resources – that is of staggering dimensions.

• A revolution in information technology that is producing rapid changes in society whose repercussions for governance are inevitably uncertain but potentially very consequential.

• The sheer magnitude of the social strains generated by simultaneous massive changes in terms of urbanization, marketization, globalization, growth of the non-state sector, and the information revolution. All are necessary for long-term success as a modern state and society, but each in the short run is a challenge to social stability.

• The particular challenges created when such rapid and multifaceted changes make it difficult to develop a settled sense of social ethics, which has always been a distinguishing characteristic of Chinese civilization.

The Chinese political system is highly capable and pragmatic and has managed many major challenges in the past.

The Third Plenum has given us in broad outline a fairly good idea of Xi's understanding of the Chinese Dream.

• This is a Dream that foresees massive adjustments in China's governance, even while maintaining the absolute supremacy of rule by the CCP.

• It will require extraordinary skill to manage the politics of turning this broad Dream into operational programs that can successfully be implemented.

• And the implications for future governance – which cannot be predicted with any degree of confidence – will be determined not only by the strategy for implementing the Dream but also by the forces that develop as China's economy and society are themselves transformed.

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