BEIJING — In schools, factories and opera theaters nationwide, Chinese residents are being pushed to pursue the “China Dream” as the Communist Party steps up its propaganda efforts ahead of its July 1 birthday.
Workers at state-owned companies held writing and singing contests in June with a “China Dream” theme, listened to lecturers and selected model colleagues, state news agency Xinhua reported. Elementary school students and high-schoolers kicked off a six-month-long poetry reading competition. A prison in eastern Jiangsu province hosted a China Dream speech contest, as did the Beijing Railway Station.
An opera and drama competition captivated Southwest Guangxi province, while in southeast Fujian, an 84-year-old resident drafted teaching materials so good that the province will print them as school textbooks, Fuzhou News reported.
The renewed propaganda blitz 18 months after Chinese President and party leader Xi Jinping first referenced the dream offers a reminder of the Party’s continuing need to engage and inspire China’s 1.3 billion citizens, even in an increasingly powerful one-party state where authorities are quick to quash dissent.
Slogans remain important here, although many Chinese have long tired of the party’s countless, and often damaging, political campaigns. At least “China Dream” appears catchier than the “Scientific Outlook on Development” and “The Three Represents,” which Xi’s two predecessors in power foisted on the nation.
Xi told President Obama that China’s dream “is connected to the American dream,” but it retains a strong national and collective purpose. It means China seeks “economic prosperity, national rejuvenation and people’s well-being,” he said.
China’s State Council, or cabinet, held a press conference Friday in Beijing for top-level party researchers to extol the dream’s virtues.
“A person without a dream has no future, and it’s the same for a country and a people,” said Sun Yeli, vice director of the Party Literature Research Office.
Achieving that dream requires strict adherence to the “China Road” of socialism with Chinese characteristics, added senior researcher Wang Xiangping.
The Party Literature Research Office has published three officially sanctioned books in the past six months of Xi’s speeches. The volumes are sold in the state’s Xinhua bookstores but are also bought in bulk by party units, said Yan Jianqi, the office’s secretary general.
The China Dream “is as important as Chairman Mao’s thoughts and Deng Xiaoping’s theory,” he said, citing the key ideological contributions of earlier leaders. “They come down in one continuous line, with the same aim to make China rich and powerful.”
Yan, 60, who joined the Party in 1975, said he believes the dream will make China prosperous and strong.
“It’s our common dream, and the heartfelt wish of all Chinese people,” he said. “So the China Dream is the best slogan to unite the people.”
China’s neighbors, and the world at large, have grown worried that China’s newfound economic clout translates into tougher foreign policy. Sun and other speakers Friday downplayed the “China threat” and insisted the China Dream represents a peaceful, win-win concept from a peace-loving nation.
At the same time, Sun repeated the familiar, nationalistic refrain that the party is restoring China’s pride and strength after a shameful period of foreign domination that began in the 19th century.
Some observers wish China, now the world’s second-largest economy, could switch to a new narrative, less hung up on the past.
“Can you relax now? You’ve succeeded! Calm down, you’re not at war with England over opium,” said Joseph Fewsmith, a China politics scholar at Boston University. “They need to get over that, but they seem to be building on that.”
Fewsmith doubts the “China Dream” will enter the Party’s official ideological canon — and expects the party will enshrine another Xi concept in two to five years — but says he’s surprised by Xi’s swift impact.
“I don’t think that anyone anticipated the forcefulness of his administration, or that he could consolidate power so quickly,” he said.
Xi has shown determination in fighting corruption, and talks of challenging the vested interests of state-owned monopolies, but Fewsmith warned not to expect significant political change.
“China’s basic Leninist system remains quite firm,” he said, and all reforms are designed to reinforce that system.
Online, some Chinese make fun of the state-imposed China Dream as the “China Nightmare” or “Daydream,” but usually do so without revealing their real names. Others enjoy the mass activities and say the campaign is both important and relevant.
“If our country is strong, and the economy continues developing fast, everybody could live a happy life,” said Xiao Muhua, 62, a former farmer now raising her grandson in Beijing. “My dream is that all my family members are healthy, because the medical fees are expensive.”