Dreams Shattered in America was written in 2013 by Zhou Xiaoping, who was relatively obscure at that time but has risen to overnight stardom recently as an internet writer since he was invited to meet with President Xi Jinping at a literature and art conference. Following his meeting with President Xi, official media and Chinese websites have reprinted and reposted his articles nationwide. Zhou, with his nationalistic and patriotic writing, has appeared to be the Chinese government’s new face of internet propaganda. However, Zhou and his articles have caused controversies; some regard him as a political speculator, writing to please the authorities. In Dreams Shattered in America, Zhou, who has never been to the United States, depicts a U.S. where people live miserably, and declares the American Dream outdated, while calling for a greater China Dream. Notably, negative comments about Zhou and rebuttals to his article have been erased by Chinese censors.
“I followed you for thousands and thousands of miles, but you don’t really take it to heart.” Whenever I heard these lyrics in my childhood, I knew it was the TV drama “A Native of Beijing in New York” playing again. At the time, I did not really understand why even with aggressive American police, the high American crime rate, and nasty American food, Chinese people still blindly admire the United States. Later I realized, the United States has a lot of cars, massive amount of tall buildings, and color TVs… back then, we were so admiring and envious towards such an America! The process of pursuing a dream is strange, because when you are working hard toward that dream, you will often surpass the dream itself. Now it seems that the old “American Dream” is not big enough to fit the Chinese people’s eagerness, and it is time to pursue a bigger and more powerful “Chinese Dream”.
Nearly everybody in China participates in comparing China and the U.S.; the discussion has spread from the Internet to various newspapers and magazines over the years. However, due to the assessment of Internet “scholars” regarding freedom of the press, people cannot really see the truth, and it has produced a series of unrealistic “American Dreams”. In the American Dream built up by Internet “scholars”, the U.S. is a place where medical treatment, hospitalization, and education are free, and the prices of common goods and houses are extremely low. But I have been thinking, if that were the case, why would anybody go to the U.S. for business and sell products? Is America already practicing communism?
In recent years, whenever I talked to the study abroad students about America, we shared a feeling: as life becomes more comfortable, people tend to complain more, but when life becomes harsh they start to quiet down.
For example, those who complain how education is expensive in China, will become used to the unbelievably high tuition of an American university. When buying things in China, these students will never check the price; but when they are in the U.S., they suddenly learn to buy things only when they are on sale.
Those who used to complain about how school cafeteria food was really nasty would never take any steps to cook on their own. After enduring many days of hamburgers while studying in the U.S., they all learned to cook. Here, people would complain about not eating free-range chickens, but there they would be satisfied with chicken raised on artificial growth hormones.
Those who denounce the medical treatment expenses and the complicated procedure of seeing a doctor all learned to carry medicines with them. When they are sick, no doctors are needed at all: they would just take the medicine and push it through.
Those who complain about high housing prices in China show no anger in cramming in a small place with roommates in the US. No complaints are heard from riding the subway for hours to go to school. Here, people drink at the street stalls until midnight and nothing dangerous would happen; when studying in the U.S., people learn to avoid walking at night and always seek company when going off-campus.
When these people who complain so much, especially online, arrive in America, they suddenly become really hard working and tolerant. They learn to buy discounted goods, wash dishes, and forgo the idea of owning a home. They even learn not to criticize the government, and watch Occupy Wall Street indifferently as if nothing was happening.
Is this still the old “American Dream”?
Of course some would still say Americans have democracy and freedom, but these people forget that Chinese people have those too. In this world, democracy does not only refer to American Democracy. Chinese Democracy is also “Democracy”. The so-called American dream cannot pass as the whole human race’s dream at all.
The U.S. thinks it is possible to separate themselves from other continents and that wars and conflicts will not affect them. At the same time, the U.S. exports military threat and the culture of “American Democracy” to easily control other countries’ governments and turn them into puppets. The U.S. prevents technology transfers to achieve the dirty goal of keeping other nations’ technology level low, and thus prevent these nations from becoming really powerful.
China needs to implement its own “democracy”, but China cannot be democratized by America. The dream that America has portrayed to the world has been broken by the reality into pieces. It seems that the public still like the idea of “American Dream”, but the right path for humanity includes great change. China is now showing a more advanced and more equal “Chinese Dream”, which will gradually be accepted by more countries and more people.
The world is experiencing a revolution. Can we share peace in the future? Can civilization be continued? Hope is upon us, the new generation of young adults.