With second largest economy in the world, China has shown the global community the results of people working hard. Thus, more and more Chinese people have set their goals toward materialism, in hopes of a better life.
While this intention is certainly admirable, far-fetched targets may also bring calamity. During the 1920s, the US experienced an economic boom. People could drive their own cars, have fresh food delivered to their houses, and have a wide variety of shopping items. These improvements of living standards made the American people want more wealth and set higher goals.
However, these goals were shattered when the stock market crashed in 1929. And the very reason for the destruction of their hopes was because Americans had bought things with money they did not possess. As the people wanted more and more, one single failure could trigger the end to all desires.
A similar disaster occurred 79 years later when the US housing bubble popped, beginning the 2008 financial crisis. People borrowed huge sums of money from banks that they could not repay, encouraged by an unregulated financial system and a culture of consumption. Thus, people had their houses repossessed, the US economy suffered, and many middle-level jobs disappeared.
With many jobs gone to Asia, the unemployment rate has risen drastically, causing recent graduates struggling to find ways to repay their student loans. One consequence has been the increasing income inequality, with the US’ Gini index, which measures the wealth gap, continuing to rise.
Coincidentally, one of the biggest challenges the Chinese government faces today, is also the increasing income gap. China’s Gini coefficient, today close to that of the US, has also surpassed 0.40 and is currently around 0.47.
To prevent a further rift between the two classes, the growing Chinese middle class must not excessively borrow money, while the Chinese government must tightly regulate the monetary and fiscal policies to avoid an economic disaster while preventing rampant evasion.
American literature also warns that people should not reach too far. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the main character, bootlegger Jay Gatsby desires everything. He wants it all from personal wealth to cars, and from mansions to the girl he loved and lost. Gatsby’s goals change from reality to fantasy, and he forgets that certain things cannot be bought. As a result, when he dies, no one comes to his funeral.
These examples, I hope, can warn us that setting goals that are too high can only present a greater downfall not only to an individual, but also sometimes to a society as a whole.
In today’s Chinese society, the reason why many men to buy houses is to get married. Chinese women generally prefer men who have steady incomes and reliable backup. However, with the ever-rising property prices, the goal cannot always be instantly achieved.
China also needs to learn lessons from US racial history. Even though China does not have a big multiracial community, China has 56 different ethnic groups.
Although many of the ethnic groups have fewer than 1 million people, it is still important to guarantee the equal rights and opportunity of the people, as American history has shown.
The equality issues in the US began when European traders sold slaves from Africa to work on plantations in the American south.
Despite the end of slavery after the Civil War (1860-65), African Americans in many areas were still not able to vote, receive the same education, and apply for certain jobs prior to the 1960s.
As a Hong Konger, I couldn’t be happier for the progress made by China and its people. Nonetheless, if we want to achieve the Chinese dream, we can learn from the US example and not make the same mistakes.
The author is a student at the Hong Kong International School. firstname.lastname@example.org