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More in common than meets the eye

Updated: 2013-11-15 09:56
By Jiang Shixue ( China Daily Europe)

European attitudes and experiences have much to offer China as it works to achieve its national goals

Many Chinese know there is an American dream, but they might never have heard of the existence of a European dream.

Google searches find an interesting book titled European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream (2004), by Jeremy Rifkin. According to a review of the book, while the American dream emphasizes unrestrained economic growth, personal wealth and the pursuit of individual self-interest, the European dream focuses more on sustainable development, quality of life and the nurturing of community.

The notion or slogan of the Chinese dream was put forward by the new Chinese leadership after the 18th Party Congress last November. Unlike the European dream, the Chinese dream has entered the country's political vocabulary and is used by the Communist Party, the government and the media to encourage every Chinese citizen to work hard for a national resurgence.

Indeed, the Chinese dream has become an official buzzword. While European governments have never tried to explain what the European dream is all about, Chinese authorities have defined the meaning of the Chinese dream. In an interview with journalists at the end of this May, President Xi Jinping said that the Chinese dream simply means more national prosperity and a better life for the people. To put it in more detail, the objective is to double the 2010 GDP and per capita income so that by 2020 China will be a stronger, more democratic and harmonious nation with socialist modernization.

Undoubtedly, different people have different understandings of the Chinese dream. At a recent event, organized by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, researchers were asked to comment on the Chinese dream. Some said that their dream is to see a stronger and more prosperous China on the world stage. Others pointed out that, as scholars, their dream is to write and publish more papers to win rapid academic promotion. Still others, mainly young scholars, expressed their desire to earn more so they could buy a flat and a car to win the heart of a girlfriend. Needless to say, different Europeans would also offer different understandings of the meaning of a European dream.

In any case, there is a similarity between the Chinese dream and the European dream. Both propose a better life for the people. So, for the purpose of pursuing their common dreams, China and Europe might be able to strengthen their cooperation.

As Xi said, the realization of the Chinese dream would benefit the whole world. With the growth of its economy in the next five years, China's total imports will reach $10 trillion (7.5 trillion euros); China's outward foreign direct investment will amount to $500 billion; and 400 million Chinese tourists will go abroad. These numbers indicate that there is a golden opportunity for Europe. The Chinese economy will greatly aid the EU's recovery from its debt crisis.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the strategic partnership between China and the EU. It seems Europeans have more doubts than the Chinese over the meaning of this partnership. They say that it is only a long-term goal (or a dream), not a reflection of reality.

But it is hard to deny that, over the past decade, remarkable progress has been achieved in the China-EU strategic partnership. There are now more than 80 areas of bilateral cooperation, ranging from trade to technology and from cultural exchanges to currency swaps. Only a genius could think of more areas for exchange and cooperation.

In China today, the dream of a better life means not only more money, but also the guarantee of clean air and healthy food. Europe can offer China many lessons about protecting the environment. Moreover, to help China transform its growth model, Europe could transfer advanced technology in the areas of clean energy and urbanization.

Diplomatically speaking, China and the EU strengthening their strategic partnership in the next decade could also be considered part of a common dream. One of the most effective ways of realizing this dream is to promote deeper mutual understanding. Without it there will be no genuine strategic partnership. As Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told European Council President Herman Van Rompuy in Brussels in May 2012, only through mutual respect and mutual understanding can the two sides resolve differences.

The author is vice-president of Insititue of European Studies, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

(China Daily European Weekly 11/15/2013 page13)