It seems that for Chinese society, comparison with America has been a way to understand itself. At the beginning, this served as a way for China to learn from foreign countries and to expand its own knowledge. However, over the past few years, it has evolved into a way for China’s detractors to emphasize the positive side of America, while opponents of China’s detractors are forced to expound America’s negative side. In the end, this all leads to the question: “Just who or what is America, actually?”
Internet columnist Zhou Xiaoping wrote a piece entitled “Broken American Dream,” which offered a rebuttal to a piece which had widely circulated on the Internet called America “Half-Dream.”* Recently, Fang Zhouzi wrote his own article, “Zhou Xiaoping’s Dream — America,” which points out the errors in Zhou’s article. This debate has stirred strong reaction, attracting comments from Chinese students studying in America. They feel that Zhou’s piece is much more accurate, while Fang’s article is based only partially on the truth.
This article has attempted to bypass the “left-right struggle,” trying to take an objective approach towards Sino-American comparisons, and looking for critical original points.
First, America is the largest developed country, while China is the largest developing country. The differences between what each country has remains large, but on societal matters only, China has clearly lost out to America. To come to this conclusion, one doesn’t need to have deep knowledge or to look at any resume. One can clearly see this by looking at TV, movies and various media.
In the area of Sino-American competition, China has the strategic advantage. The China of today is developing faster and resolving domestic issues more effectively, which has helped reduce the differences between the two countries; this is an uncontestable fact the whole world can see.
Many Chinese applaud and envy American society and daily life — this is the basic reason why many Chinese immigrate to the United States. At the same time, social improvements are important as they show the vigor and opportunity present in society, and also demonstrate the effectiveness of current societal governance. This has significance for national competitiveness, and shows an improving trend in the lives of regular people.
China and America need to compare what they have, but national development includes tangible as well as substantive things. This kind of comparison allows one to see differences. In order to develop, there is a strong rush for natural resources. In this era of globalization, this kind of competition is increasing every second of every day, and in the end is positive and constructive.
What we oppose is using what each country possesses as a basis for comparison, obliterating the growing change between the two nations. We oppose using China’s decades of poverty and weakness to show the faults of the system, in turn denigrating the effectiveness of Chinese current path toward development.
At the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the U.S. and China could not have been further apart; like being born into poverty, this is something we were unable to choose. Up until today, the development of the two countries has been quite different. It is up to us whether this gap widens or closes.
We can unabashedly say that since the beginning of opening and reform, the difference between the two countries has shrunk rapidly. Not only that, but we can say that China’s closing of the development gap has been one of the fastest in the world. This truth serves to show the advantages and disadvantages of both systems; this has greater significance than in just affecting the gaps between Chinese or American average salaries, housing prices and healthcare standards.
America has its strengths and weaknesses. Whether you idealize America as a grand cathedral, or demonize it as a vile hell, neither is objective. Using these kinds of “America” as a point of reference for China is harmful. We should particularly avoid any kind of comparison with an agenda, be it turning America’s weaknesses into strengths or China’s strengths into shortcomings — this would be like using a distorted funhouse mirror to compare the two groups.
Seeing the world and seeing Chinese society clearly has never been an easy affair. As China moves toward taking its place among developed nations, we have already made a substantial leap in our ability to know ourselves. We cannot afford to make more mistakes in this area.
*Editor’s note: While accurately translated, the source of this cited piece could not be verified.