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Over the past three decades, China has become a relatively well-off, increasingly urbanized nation, with a growing (middle) class of consumers. Against this background, the nation-state has formulated the concept of the China Dream, revolving around the rejuvenation of the nation. Familiarising the people with this Dream is an urgent matter. Framed in terms of raising (human) quality, state educators and public intellectuals see the education of the people in the Dream’s morals and values as one of the state’s major responsibilities.
Ever since Xi Jinping first used the phrase “Chinese Dream” in a public pronouncement, people in and outside of China have been struggling to come to terms with what this concept entails. Xi first spoke of the Chinese Dream (hereafter: CD) after his election as General Secretary in 2012, during a speech he delivered after visiting the exhibition “The Road to Rejuvenation” at the National Museum of China in Beijing. The exhibition focuses roughly on the period of and experiences with Sino-foreign contacts since the mid-19th century, in short, with the ‘century of humiliation’ in Chinese official discourse. Over time, it has become clear that the CD consists of ‘realizing a prosperous and strong country, the rejuvenation of the nation and the well-being of the people’. The CD has been presented as a comprehensive concept that consists of four parts: a Strong China (economically, politically, diplomatically, scientifically, and militarily); a Civilized China (equity and fairness, rich culture, high morals); a Harmonious China (amity among social classes); and a Beautiful China (healthy environment, low pollution) (Kuhn 2013).
Dreams dominate the visual messages intended for moral education in public spaces. However, these visualised dreams – on posters, on rotating billboards – almost all refer to an idealized past. Public service advertising (PSA) on television, websites, and social media further strengthens the state’s communication strategies. During a fieldwork trip in Spring 2015, researcher Stefan Landsberger focused on posters and televised PSA, trying to identify areas where their usage and contents overlap and differ. He looked at whether the Dream imagery appeals to the targeted population or not; and whether and how the official messages have been subverted.
- Read the final report here (PDF).
- Read the published article "Dreaming the Chinese Dream. How the People’s Republic of China Moved from Revolutionary Goals to Global Ambition", International Journal for History, Culture and Modernity. 2(3), pp.245–274, here.