"The End of the Chinese Dream still ranks as one of the works on the Chinese dream most worth reading…..This timely and controversial book is crucial to understand the dark sides of the Chinese dream, and for the development of future research.... This book should be required reading for serious social policy makers, scholars and students who are interested in social policy in China." Kai Chen, Zhejiang University, China


"The End of the Chinese Dream challenges everything we believe about China. This is a book that must be read by anyone who struggles to understand the greatest experiment underway in the world today." John Gray, Emeritus Professor of European Thought, London School of Economics, and author of False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism


"The End of the Chinese Dream is highly original and unusual. Gerard Lemos has written with real insight into the fears and dreams of ordinary Chinese people. Anyone who wants to get behind misleading headlines about China should read this important book." Zhou Xun, Department of History, University of Hong Kong


"Those looking for a meaningful yet concise interpretation of Chinese history, paired with original and revealing insight on the country’s social state, will find a good read in The End of the Chinese Dream. The book’s anecdotes will entertain even the most avid China watchers. The author does an excellent job in summing up the most palpable evidence that not all is well in the People’s Republic." China Economic Review


"A fascinating in­sight into the people’s hopes and fears….The Chinese government should be grateful for Lemos’s work because it tells them what their corrupt local officials per­haps do not…This is, therefore, an important contribution to an­swering one of the great 21st-century ques­tions: How will China’s leaders deal with the universality of human hope?” Humphrey Hawksley, BBC Foreign Correspondent, Global Briefing


"Lemos lifts the lid on systemic social problems: lack of healthcare; a broken education system, distorted family structures due to the one child policy and no recourse for those whose property is seized by the state" Leslie Hook, Financial Times


"Mr. Lemos performs a valuable substantive service by exposing the dark side of China's rise." Minxin Pei, The Wall Street Journal


"The End of the Chinese Dream shows what can be discovered despite official obstruction...Lemos’s snapshots reveal people traumatised by rapid change and the loss of community and family ties, deeply anxious about the insecurities of old age and resentful of flourishing corruption and ineffective justice." Isabel Hilton, New Statesman


"Lemos shows, with the weight of [his] impressive research, why the China of today cannot yet lay claim to [being] an exemplar for the rest of the world, and a real challenge to the United States." Rana Mitter, Daily Telegraph


"Lemos has a fine eye for detail...for the uninitiated eager to look beyond the veneer of China’s glitzy coastal cities and official propaganda, Lemos’s book is an excellent primer" Frederik Balfour, Bloomberg


"Lemos found that beneath the myth of a harmonious society most of these people were living in constant social and financial anxiety…All the problems listed in the book are true and well documented." Chow Chung-yan, South China Morning Post


"The End of the Chinese Dream is a much-needed and remarkably well-timed glimpse into the underbelly of this Asian tiger, one that reveals the terrible burdens of a growing wealth gap, rising prices, decaying communities, and weakened social safety nets. Lemos offers a view of China outside the glamorous city centers of Beijing and Shanghai, telling the stories that censors keep away from international eyes." Gordon Cain, The New Republic


"This is a welcome and highly readable account of the travails wrought on China's people by history's most powerful plutocracy." Frank Dikotter, University of Hong Kong, author of Mao’s Great Famine, the Sunday Times


"Given the number of books on China that are out there already, it is probably reasonable to ask whether we need any more…The End of the Chinese Dream suggests that the answer is “yes”…Lemos’ work helps us remember why it is that China faces as many as 180,000 protests annually and why it is that Chinese leaders spend so much time talking about the need for grassroots reform." Elizabeth Economy, Council on Foreign Relations



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Friday, 7 September 2012

The Fragrant Harbour


The End of the Chinese Dream? 

A book about Chinese fears and dreams
A book about Chinese fears and dreams
Tonight I attended a talk put on by the Asia Society, presenting British sociologist Gerard Lemos who has written a book called The End of the Chinese Dream -- Why Chinese People Fear the Future.

So I was hoping for a stimulating talk as did a number of other people in the audience, including former Chief Secretary Anson Chan.

However when Lemos began his talk, he cautioned he was not a China expert, only a sociologist and his findings were not necessarily scientific either.

What he did was he went to Chongqing in 2006 and at the time the Bo Xilai had yet to become Party Secretary of China's largest municipality of 30 million people.

The officials at the time were interested in finding out what ordinary people thought of policies and how they could plan for the future.

And while Lemos was there, making his first trip to China, he observed the Chinese liked to write wishes and put them on trees. And the higher up the tree they were, then the higher the chance the wish would be carried up to the heavens.

So the expert on social policy hit on the idea of creating another version of wishing trees where he gave people "leaves" to answer four questions:

1. Who are you?
2. What event changed your life?
3. What is your greatest worry?
4. What do you wish for?


He put these wishing trees in three areas in Chongqing, one near a tire factory that had employed 3,000 people that was shut down, one near some farmers' land that had been expropriated for development, and one near a historical area that has become a tourist spot.

British sociologist Gerard Lemos
Lemos read out some of the things people wrote down. Many said they were concerned about healthcare, particularly when they got older, as the cost of treatment and drugs are expensive. Others felt the pressures of the education system, that young people only have one shot at getting into university with the gaokao system and if they didn't get in, they would not only feel shame, but financially would wonder what to do.

He observed the high savings rate of young people, and put it down to the high cost of education, particularly now with one child.

Another issue is old age, and those prematurely laid off wonder how they are going to pay bills when they get older, while the one-child policy seems to have created unhappy families who are not seeing their traditional Chinese family values come to fruition and instead pour all their hopes and dreams into one child.

And then there are the "ant tribes", fresh graduates who are living in cramped quarters and having trouble finding work -- work that requires a university degree. They feel it is beneath them to take on a factory job, or perhaps would feel shame if it was discovered that was the only job they could get.

Lemos said he also did the wishing tree exercise in two areas in Beijing and got similar results.

What are we to make of all of this?

He wants us to read his book to find out, but basically his unscientific observations and answers from ordinary people show that in the late 1970s when China first opened up, there was the possibility of gaining wealth, of have the means to buy things, to have a better life and this is what fueled the Chinese dream.

But now some people are feeling that they are left out and left behind from the optimism and the dream, Lemos says.

What is also interesting is that when there were complaints about the system, people did not point fingers at particular officials, but felt the system wasn't working for them; they inherently knew trying to blame someone was not going to help.

Another observation was that more people were turning to religion to help them explain the world as it became more complicated. Lemos explained this was a phenomenon he was seeing in other places too -- like India and South Africa.

So really Lemos should be doing a world-wide reading with his four questions and then collating the answers to see what kind of country comparisons can be made, since he is not a China specialist.

Nevertheless, he has conducted an interesting project -- and should ask these same four questions again in another 10 years in China to see where people are with their Chinese dream.

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