Tea Leaf Nation
What China’s Reading: ‘Broken Dreams, USA’
Read the highlights from a now-famous essay on all that's ailing Uncle Sam.
Zhou Xiaoping, a 33-year-old, selfie-snapping blogger, has quickly become the new face of Chinese patriotism — or, some would say, nationalism. On Oct. 15, Chinese President Xi Jinping held a forum in Beijing in which the president called for art to serve socialist ends. Among those lauded by name was Zhou, who has rocketed to prominence with a number of blog entries harshly critical of the United States. Three of these — "Broken Dreams in the USA," "Fly, Chinese Dreams," and "Their Dreams and our Flags" — were reprinted together the next day in elite Communist Party media, a strong show of support for Zhou’s ideas.
There’s been no shortage of controversy in China since, over Zhou’s intellect, his motivations, and the veracity of some of the claims he makes about the United States. What exactly about Zhou’s writings is so irksome to some Chinese — and so attractive to others? Foreign Policy translates selected portions of one of Zhou’s better-known works, "Broken Dreams in the USA," below. — The Editors
"As a kid, I couldn’t understand why Chinese people flocked to the United States when the policemen there were so cruel, the crime rate was so high, and the food was so unpalatable. Later I realized that it’s because in America there are cars, concrete jungles and skyscrapers, and color televisions. How we used to admire and worship such a country, America. But now it seems the old ‘American dream’ is too plain for Chinese people’s desires…
"The comparison between China and America is a nationwide discussion that’s spread from the Internet to newspapers and magazines. … The intellectuals brag that medical treatment and education are free in the United States, and that real estate and commodities cost very little. But I’ve been thinking, why would people go there to do business if these were all true? It seems like this America is actually communist! …
"Those who criticize the high cost of education in China view astronomical tuition in the United States as something natural and normal. … They find fault in free-range chickens in China, but are perfectly happy with American chickens pumped full of growth hormones.
"Those who denounce the medical expenses and the cumbersome procedures of seeing doctors in China, learn to bring their own piles of medicine and take them when they get sick, for fear of going to hospitals in America. …
"Those who complain about China’s high housing prices put up with sharing small American apartments, cramped subways, and long commutes to school without a frown. In China they can drink at street food stalls till midnight without fear of mishap, all the while clamoring that China is going to collapse. Yet in America, they learn to stay home after 10 p.m., or seek company for safety when going out. …
"Of course, some people will say there are elections, democracy and freedom in America. But these people forget that China has elections, democracy, and freedom of its own kind, too. … The United States believes that by geopolitically isolating its continent from others, conflicts and wars going on elsewhere will not affect it. At the same time, it can easily support puppet governments in other countries by exporting ‘American democracy’ and via military power. And by blockading science and technology, the United States tries to suffocate other countries’ technological development, preventing them from truly growing their nation’s power.
"China will realize its own democracy, but it can’t be the American way. The dream the United States drew for the world has been shattered by reality. … A great change is happening in the world. The hope of future peace and civilization lies in us, the young Chinese generation."