Chinese dream will become reality only if China learns to manage change

G. Bin Zhao examines some of the challenges that stand in the way of this unifying goal

There has been much analysis already of President Xi Jinping’s vision of the “Chinese dream”. One thing has become clear: striving to achieve the dream is a common goal.

From the perspective of modern management theory, the process of achieving the dream falls under the category of change management. Indentifying the stakeholders and relevant environments will provide a better viewpoint to foresee the coming changes.

So who are the core stakeholders? The Politburo has given us the answer by introducing the “mass line” campaign, which proposes “doing everything for the masses, relying on the masses, from the masses, to the masses”.

We must also assess the external stakeholders.

On the political front, US-China relations will continue to experience friction, given that many Americas see China’s rise as a threat to their nation’s world leadership. In addition, there is Japan’s alliance with the US, wedging China in. Therefore, it’s clear that the international political environment for creating the Chinese dream is full of turbulence.

The economic environment is also in a state of turmoil. Though China’s economy may be facing difficulties, its growth and size mean it has been dominant in recent years. This will provide a solid foundation for the Chinese dream.

The social environment involves a complex range of factors, such as population growth, age distribution, health status and class structure, as well as lifestyle and social values. Globally, there is a significant gap in this sphere between developed and developing countries, and China is still very backward in many ways. Increasing the quality of China’s social environment is particularly important, and will be a lengthy process.

The technological environment is not conducive to achieving the dream. Problems with internet security, for example, have sparked heated debate, following the revelations by Edward Snowden. American technology has long been used in industries in China, and this dependence makes the country very vulnerable.

The environment is an area of serious concern, globally as well as in China, where many cities are choking from smog, and soil and water pollution is a problem. Many see the Chinese dream as simply being able to enjoy blue skies, clean air and water, and safe food.

From a strategic viewpoint, China’s decision to propose that the state and all people should have a common dream or goal is laudable. Without a goal, we can achieve nothing. The realisation of the Chinese dream will lead to an improvement in people’s lives; thus, it is a far-sighted strategy that unifies all.

In terms of leadership, the West often criticises China for its lack of democracy and for being a dictatorship, but this does not mean that outstanding officials do not get promoted to core leadership positions.

Human resources are today about knowledge and skills. China’s college entrance examination system has long been of concern and recent reforms that focus on making it more scientific and rational are inspiring initiatives.

At the same time, some employees of state-owned enterprises have been accused of “inheriting” jobs, thus diminishing the concept of social fairness. Making the Chinese dream come true depends on promoting world-class people to critical positions and implementing a fair and equitable employment system. This will certainly require more reforms and improvements.

Chinese civilisation has a long and colourful history and the impact of a country’s culture is an important soft power. The realisation of the Chinese dream will also allow China’s culture to gradually spread around the world.

In terms of technology, there is a wide gap between China and developed countries, mainly reflected in the technological capabilities of a large number of companies, as well as the strength of research institutions and universities. Closing the gap is one of the difficult tasks in achieving the dream. Nevertheless, the speed of China’s development has been amazing; just take the aerospace industry as an example.

We should remember it took the US more than seven decades to move from a position of economic dominance to become the international powerhouse it is today, if we regard the end of the second world war, in 1945, as the landmark (the US became the world’s largest economy in the 1870s). In terms of gross domestic product, America’s economic aggregate in 2013 was twice that of China.

When using the US as the benchmark, the achievement of the Chinese dream will certainly be a long and difficult journey. Yet, as Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. At least for now, there is a common dream for all Chinese.

G. Bin Zhao is executive editor at China’s Economy & Policy, and co-founder of Gateway International Group, a global China consulting firm. The analysis is based on the theoretical framework put forward by Professor Ellen R. Auster from Schulich School of Business at York University, Canada