on December 17, 2010
This book manages to blend several themes, most obviously the rise of China's middle class and how this creates economic opportunities for business, and may also present further ways of stabilizing world politics. Wang does a very good job illustrating how important China's middle class will be for China's own internal politics, and its pursuit of increasingly open forms of governance. But beyond these themes, you also finish the book with an appreciation of the author's journey, and what her own story has to say about the aspirations of China's middle class, coupled to what her story and experience in America should remind us about our own culture. It is impossible to finish this book and not be reminded of what America needs to get back, namely a vision and passion for our future, versus a fear of having to protect what we already have.
on March 13, 2011
This book is much more than the business-focus that I expected. The variety of topics, the facts and figures, the bits of history, the interviews and the autobiographical stories worked so well together and made for a very comprehensive and well-rounded book. It brought back many memories of my travels to China a few years ago, and will be of interest to anyone interested in China as well as business people. Very thought provoking and insightful. Two thumbs up!
on December 9, 2010
The Chinese Dream combines careful analysis of sociopolitical forces with fascinating stories of individuals who embody a middle class that is already 300 million strong and will reach 800 million by 2025. Wang, who spent early adulthood in China, spoke to over a hundred people: home-grown entrepreneurs and executives for foreign-owned firms; connected Communist party members and peasants who lifted themselves up from rural poverty; an Internet mogul who beat eBay and Yahoo, a gay footwear company manager, a former Tienanmen Square demonstrator, and many more. They share their struggles, hopes and dreams set against a background of ancient traditions and modern ambitions.
Wang also explores the impact of the middle class on Chinese society. Mostly university educated and increasingly aware of the outside world, they're spurring a nascent green business movement and a growing interest of religions of all kinds. Whether or not the expansion of the middle class will lead to greater democracy is a question Wang explores with great sensitivity and nuance.
on November 17, 2010
Having been in the States for over 4 years, I know how hard it is to try to explain China-related issues to the American audience as they've already held some deeply rooted misunderstandings. Besides, cultural values don't communicate easily, especially for two cultures as contrasting as China and the United States. And that's why I was so impressed when reading The Chinese Dream which sets an excellent example. It tells the stories of contemporary China and its people in a way that anyone even without the knowledge of one single Chinese character can easily relate to. I truly recommend this book, for the many possibilities it opens to each one of us.
on April 15, 2015
As a member of the US-China People’s Friendship Association for eight years, I’ve often heard--and told--the story of how charter members urged President Nixon to visit “Red China” and befriend the nation. Since that time, our countries’ people have traded together and traveled to each other, and life has been good. Well, until recently. We seem to have come full circle. The most common theme today among speakers, China-focused blogspots, and literature is our old refrain with a dose of urgency: It’s vital we be friends.
The Chinese Dream by Helen Wang (c 2010, Bestseller Press) is another addition to this necessary and burgeoning genre. Originally from Hangzhou, China, Helen Wang went to graduate school at Stanford, and has lived in the US for over twenty years. She is currently a consultant for companies doing business in China. Writes she, “A recent survey by Pew Research Center indicates that majorities in the United States and Europe consider China’s growing economy a bad thing for their countries. Apprehensions about China’s growing power abound in the West, and they are growing every day.”
Part memoir, part interviews with the rich and famous, and part research, Wang’s 205-page book races us through the past and the present, the rich and the poor, the corrupt and those seeking a better world—in both countries. She reminds us that the United States is an ongoing experiment that until recently enslaved blacks and women. But her main focus is China. Sections include China’s history (chaotic), urban migration (doubled in past 20 years), health care (unstable), materialism (on the rise), the pursuit of religion, and environmental challenges. Interspersed among these alarmingly heavy topics are personal vignettes about the realization of her impossible dream to study in the U.S. And at the end of each chapter is a section wrap-up, which reiterates the East-West differences presented, but stresses these should be complementary differences.
“In today’s globalized world, it is in our best interest to learn from each other. Once we understand the different modes of thought between the West and the East, such as linear versus non-linear thinking, we can see they are actually complementary, like the right and left sides of the brain. By learning to use both, we can achieve a greater oneness in thought that we can use to enhance personal and global problem solving for the betterment of all.”
The Chinese Dream would be of interest to those readers wanting a basic summary of some of the major issues facing China and the U.S. today, and those needing a reminder of why it’s vital that our nations be friends.
on September 16, 2013
Many mainstream economists now share the widespread belief that not enough of China's economy is coming from consumption, that China needs to rebalance economic priorities away from too much dependence on fixed assets investments such as infrastructure building and to spend more and save less. On the other hand, retail sales in China's cities have been increasing at a rate nearly double that of GDP. We see young urban professionals living the life of conspicuous consumption; travelling overseas and sweeping the luxury goods clean off the shelves of high-end, name brand shops.
How can we reconcile the seeming contradiction of China's need to have more of its GDP coming from consumption and the obvious over the top consumption behavior of certain socio-economic groups? One explanation comes from "The Chinese Dream" written by Helen Wang.
This book is an intensive study of China burgeoning middle class and how it came to be. The bulk of the book is devoted to personal interviews in China, from migrant workers to entrepreneurs, from laid off workers to those that got the jump start by taking over parts of state owned companies in the process of being privatized. By way of examples, the author illustrated that China's private sector "is really neither private nor public" but a peculiar blend of capitalism with Chinese characteristics.
It's not possible to explain the complexity of today's China in any single book, but by her wide-ranging interviews and personal stories along with careful research and extensive footnotes, Ms. Wang has made an important contribution to understanding the attitudes and mindsets of upward and mobile young Chinese.
By understanding this social and trend setting group of largely urban professionals, it is possible to visualize China's consumer behavior in the future. Just as China has become an integral part of the global economy, the Chinese customer will become an increasingly important buyer for all kinds of goods and services.
Whether you are interested in understanding today's China as part of business planning exercise or for personal enlightenment, this book would be an excellent primer and starting point.
on August 16, 2013
Helen Wang's The Chinese Dream: The Rise of the World's Largest Middle Class and What It Means To You is an informative, well-written book about China's growing middle class. Wang, an independent consultant who assists companies doing business in China, artfully breaks down the book into a series of themes and interweaves them with a succession of personal experiences and fascinating interactions (including one with a PR manager doing "religion shopping" and another with Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba). The Chinese Dream's principal argument is that the rise of a large Chinese middle class is beneficial for both China as well as the rest of the world. Furthermore, Wang believes that middle class Chinese and Westerners have a similar set of core values and share many of the same aspirations and dreams and can thus learn from each other.
To me, the biggest takeaway is how communism and capitalism can co-exist side-by-side in China. At a high-level, Wang argues that the Chinese are pragmatic people and have accepted the status quo. Chinese people are very scared about what might happen if the Communist government fell. Given how well-versed the Chinese are with their own history, they know that when the Qing Dynasty fell in 1911-12 (depicted in The Last Emperor), there was no real governance and chaos ensued across the country. Thus, the Chinese people have accepted the Communist government and, in return, the government has allowed a booming private sector to flourish. The unique aspect of China's "private sector", however, is that the government is still intimately involved with the sector and permeates it (which Wang aptly calls it a "peculiar private sector").
From Wang's book, there are six big lessons/takeaways for anyone interested in either doing business in China or learning more about the country's dynamic middle class. Firstly, in China, collective interest often overrides individuality; an attack on the Chinese government is often seen as an attack on the Chinese people (many Chinese took the protests along the 2008 Olympic torch relay personally). The Chinese see themselves as mostly together (think of the 2008 Beijing Olympics motto: "One World One Dream"). Secondly, there is a huge opportunity to tap into China's growing middle class. By Wang's estimates, the mostly urban middle class comprises approximately 300+ million people and they tend to have an annual income between $10K and $60K. Thirdly, many middle class Chinese will save up to buy overpriced luxury goods like Louis Vutton purses because they are seen as status symbols - as opposed to the US, where it is the affluent that primarily indulge in such luxuries. This is a trend that I definitely saw while walking around Nanjing Rd in Shanghai and Wangfujing Rd in Beijing, and is the opposite of what we Americans would consider to be sensible spending habits. Fourthly, many middle class Chinese consumers buy from Western companies because they believe that they have higher safety standards and stronger supply chains (read: they won't get sick consuming their products). This is why many middle class Chinese see KFC as "healthy" even though it's a fast food joint that primarily serves unhealthy fried chicken.
Fifthly, China is a land of extreme optimism and anxiety. While countless successful entrepreneurs like Jack Ma have risen from abject poverty, there are still millions of migrant workers barely eking out a living. While they are better off than if they were living off their land, they are still teetering close to the poverty line - which echoes what I saw when I visited two factories in Southern China back in 2010. Sixthly and lastly, the Chinese dream is to study hard and to get ahead and prosper. Most Chinese--especially those in impoverished rural areas--believe that education is their route to escape poverty and secure a better life.
Helen Wang also has some advice for the Chinese government, including that it needs to clean up its environment and enforce many national laws and policies at the local level. To this, Wang writes, "If China is to become a major power in the world, it needs to stop being narcissistic about its past and look into the future instead. The central government may understand the environmental issues well. At the local level, however, there is not much awareness." This gap between the national and local levels echoes what Shaun Rein wrote about recently in his book The End of Cheap China. Wang further argues that for too long, the government (especially at the local levels) has put growth at the expense of its environment - something I can attest to as I personally think Beijing is most polluted city that I have ever been to. As the government has somewhat woken up to the ramifications of a polluted environment--including several hundred thousand pollution-related deaths every year--Wang states that there is a huge market opportunity for western companies specializing in environmentally friendly technology such as LEED technology.
While Wang's book is excellent, there are a couple of areas where I respectfully disagree with her. I firstly disagree that many people don't believe in communism in their hearts. I believe that in China, communism is an entrenched ideology and that while many Chinese believe in a more pragmatic version of it, their belief is more than mere lip service. Also, I think that she is far more optimistic in stating that as China continues to grow economically, opposition parties will rise. While democracy may eventually come to China, I personally feel that it will take much longer than she envisions as the Chinese government has a strong grip on the country.
Overall, this is a great and informative book for anyone interested in doing business in China or simply learning more about major trends occurring in the world's most populated country.
on December 26, 2010
Does Helen Wang's book brings us tidings of great joy this Christmas ?
Helen Wang left her native China 20 years ago to study in America and become an American citizen . Her distinguished academic career and writings have established her as an expert commentator on the Chinese -American scene . This book breaks new ground for those of us interested in the future of the world . The book focuses on the Chinese middle class , which at 300,000,000 strong is already as big as America's middle class and will double in the next 15 years. Her experience as a member of the middle class in China in the past and the American middle class at present makes it possible for her to see that both middle classes have the same values and that their shared values should lead to increasing cooperation in the future .
Per capita income began to increase with the Industrial revolution in 1800 and was limited to the west. The developing nations did not begin exponential wealth production until the 1980s with China as their leader . Their climb has been swift and effective . They are interested in continuing their growth. Ms. Wang is convinced that as their income approaches ours our societies will become similar . She feels that the dream of the Chinese is to develop a society that is as prosperous and free as ours.
I found her persuasive.
There a 4 minute video on YouTube " Hans Rowling's 200 Countries , 200years , 4 minutes " That does an outstanding job of presenting the growth of wealth in 200 countries since 1810. The data he presents indicates a convergence of wealth for all the world and supports Helen Wang's optimistic prediction.
Hans Rosling's 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes
on November 18, 2010
The Chinese Dream offers a fascinating look at the huge and growing Chinese middle class and the impact it is having, and will continue to have, on the United States and the world. The author uses her interviews with a diverse array of Chinese citizens in many walks of life to explore how life has changed in China in the past several decades and to call for a recognition of the need for "unity in diversity," which would promote better relationships between China and America. Interspersed with the author's interviews and the facts and statistics gleaned from a number of news sources and reports are the author's personal stories and reflections on her childhood in China, her arrival in the United States, and her visits back to that nation over the years. She challenges Western myths about China with strong research and pointed facts, and successfully paints a picture of the incredible opportunities that await the world if a spirit of openness and understanding can be brought to bear on relationships between China and the United States.
on November 28, 2010
This book can not come in any better time than now, when the different approaches of America and China over North Korean are at the verge of creating massive popular hostility. Both sides public emotions are at the verge of arousal. Wang's book sheds lights on that all the hostility are a massive waste due to misconceptions and misplaced notions about the Chinese ways of approaching things and the underpinning culture that governs its approach. Wang's command on the Chinese culture and history is both broad and deep.