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Understanding the Chinese dream

By Robert Lawrence Kuhn | China Daily | Updated: 2013-07-19 12:57

Understanding the Chinese dream

Understanding the Chinese dream

The national approach is both collective and individual, and positive psychology can facilitate both

While the Chinese dream has captured worldwide attention, there is widespread speculation as to what it really means. Meeting with US President Barack Obama in California on June 8, Chinese President Xi Jinping stated: "By the Chinese dream, we seek to have economic prosperity, national renewal and people's well-being. The Chinese dream is about cooperation, development, peace and win-win, and it is connected to the American dream and the beautiful dreams people in other countries may have."

Kaiping Peng, a cross-cultural psychologist, welcomes Xi's clarification. "After all, Chinese culture differs from American culture, but they are connected," Peng said. "American culture is more individualistic, while Chinese culture is more collectivistic. That's why the American dream focuses on individual well-being, while the Chinese dream has the extra latitude to include the collective dream of the nation. However, both people want prosperity, love and well-being. Both are inspired by dreams and are prepared to work hard to realize them."

Peng himself exemplifies how the American dream and the Chinese dream can intersect. A Chinese native, he went to the US, when he was 27, to pursue a PhD in psychology at the University of Michigan. Becoming a tenured professor at Berkeley, he bought a house near the campus, lived there comfortably with his wife and two children, both born in the US. Like millions of other first-generation immigrants, he realized his American dream through passion, learning, and commitment.

Peng did not, however, forget his Chinese dream. In 2008, he founded the psychology department at Tsinghua University, with support from Berkeley, and has served as its chair since. "My Chinese dream is to use psychology to help other Chinese to realize their dreams," Peng said. "Psychology ought to step outside the ivory tower and help ordinary people."

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