The Chinese Dream: Prosperity and Harmony

Dahlan Iskan
Dahlan Iskan. SOE Minister (2011-2014)

IO – Why are artists and celebrities banned from wearing branded bags and clothes in the media? Why are children prohibited from playing certain games? Why are parents who let their children play games punished? And why was Jack Ma of Alibaba fined Rp25 trillion? These are the latest development in China that pique my interest. And of course, I am compelled to find out what’s behind these.

But it isn’t as easy as it used to be — when I could still freely travel to China. I haven’t been there for two years, since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out. Even now it is still difficult to get there. Foreign travel is tightly restricted. The country is hosting a Winter Olympic in February 2022. However, the prestigious sporting event was diplomatically boycotted by America and its allies — Australia, the UK, and Canada.

Finally, I was able to find an answer. But I could be wrong as this is as difficult as analyzing domestic events, like why Novel Baswedan et al rejoined the police force. And why KPK boss Firli Bahuri was recalled to his original institution? Now the superior and the subordinates who protested against him are both in Polri.

What is happening in China is also complicated. The problem concerns a very basic philosophy: the purpose of the state. Why does a state exist?

For China, the answer is simple: The Chinese Dream (“Zhongguo Meng”). This raison d’être was laid out by President Xi Jinping at the beginning of his term.

But what is the Chinese Dream? It isn’t immediately clear. Xi Jinping is still focusing on achieving the basics to enable the realization of the dream.

Even until now, many thought that China’s goal was to become the Number One superpower in the world. Beating America. And in truth, China is getting closer. It is predicted to overtake the US by 2030.

But recently I started to get a clearer answer. It turns out that China’s goal is beyond that. Being Number One is just a “bonus”. The ultimate goal is the Chinese Dream — prosperity and harmony. Prosperity made possible by economic and social development while harmony emerges through shaping China’s national psyche.

Why is being Number One not the main goal? “The consequences of becoming the Number One superpower are very heavy. And it has nothing to do with the interests of the people,” said one of my sources, who preferred to remain anonymous.

My source could be influenced by state indoctrination promoted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). But, as much as possible, I tried to distinguish misleading information from fact.

What is clear is that the efforts to provide sufficient food and clothing have actually been achieved. The goal of eliminating poverty has also been on the track. According to the World Bank, China has lifted more than 850 million people out of extreme poverty.

Of course, China still faces many problems. As a result of its own success, it now faces the gaping disparity between its rich and poor; and a dramatic shift in its society’s mindset which increasingly pursue material objects.

Indonesia could be proud. Based on Gini index, our rich and poor gap is not as wide as China’s. However, it will be easier for China to achieve equal wealth distribution as it is getting richer.

In China, there is an interesting adage “99 percent vs. 1 percent”. But there is a negative connotation in this, unlike in Indonesia regarding the issue of 1 percent of the population controlling 59 percent of the state’s land.

In China, this is about the position of the state. Will it stand with the 99 percent or the 1 percent? There is also no contradiction here. The state will care for the 99 percent as well as the 1 percent. “The state is 100 percent for the people,” said my source.

Based on a survey, 99 percent of the Chinese people actually don’t have many expectations. As long as the most important things in life are guaranteed — food, clothing, shelter, education and health.

Beyond that is desire. Desire ridden by ambition and greed, which further destroy life. Which is also contrary to the purpose of human life, as taught by Confucian philosophy.

The study also found that 1 percent of the population are geniuses. Citizens extraordinaire. Those who are to create and innovate and make life easier.

This small segment of the population make progress in all fields, including in economy and technology.

So it is very important to accommodate the 1 percent. Don’t make them feel intimidated. But also don’t create an atmosphere so that the 99 percent will follow the style of the 1 percent.

The point is: don’t stimulate the 99 percent who don’t have much “want” to pursue excessive desires which can lead to “social greed”. The earth is sufficient to provide for all human beings. But it surely won’t be enough to cater for those who are greedy.