Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Chinese dream - review

Wang_Helen_HiRes_black_MG_1708Helen Wang via Flickr
One of the more amazing shifts China has undergone in the past decades is its ability to create wealth for its citizens, and lift hundreds of millions out of poverty. The mental picture many outsiders still have of China, enforced when they see the PLA marching on Tiananmen Square, is a country dressed in green and displaying an image of equality.
Connecting real names and faces to the all-too-often abstract growth figures we all know is a daunting task, Helen Wang has taken on in an excellent way in her book “THE CHINESE DREAM: The Rise of the World's Largest Middle Class and What It Means to You”. Mostly, journalists are looking for the extremes to illustrate their stories: the very poor, or the very rich. Easily we forget that China has hundreds of millions between those extremes and - more than those extremes - they tell us how a country is really doing. Their stories about what they want from life, their future and their government is what really matters.
That rising middle class, trying to achieve their dreams, comes to live in over one hundred interviews and stories where individuals tell about their ambitions. Helen Wang has to strike a tricky balance, between first putting hundreds of millions together in one group, the middle class, and still describing them like individuals with - often contrasting - ideas and targets. That mosaic of human stories and ambitions makes the book also a very accessible and recognizable picture for the world outside China.
Whether the Chinese would call themselves “middle class”, like the Americans do, will be a debate in the years to come, as it was in the recent past. Helen Wang has set first valuable steps on a road where we can discover what we have in common and where we differ and - following the Stanford mantra - how we can make a difference.

The official launch of the book will take place at December 10 in Palo Alto, California between 6 and 9 PM. More details and reservation is possible here.
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