BEIJING - The tale of Cao Tian, a wealthy real estate developer from the Western city of Zhengzhou, has captured the attention of many Chinese. But it's not, as one might have imagined, for his business success or personal riches.
It all started when Cao Tian first announced his intentions last year to run for mayor of Zhengzhou. Cao said that he would put up 100 million yuan ($16 million) of his own money as a “clean government” guarantee, which would automatically go to the state treasury if he were ever found guilty of corruption. He also promised that, if he were to be elected, not only would he not ask for a salary, but he also guaranteed that the city’s local administrators would never again be allowed to harass people, and that corrupt officials would be severely punished.
Unfortunately, Cao’s beautiful dream soon turned very ugly.
Cao was investigated by tax authorities, and his company was fined 40 million yuan ($6.4 million). Naturally, if Cao’s company had violated tax regulations he should be fined. It’s probably just a coincidence that this investigation happened right as he announced he was running for mayor.
After that, Cao disappeared to escape the pressure. He had to renounce his political ambitions, and went into hiding, like a fugitive.
Cao’s story sparked a wave of mixed emotions in China. Many expressed their disappointment while others made fun of his ambitions. A commentator suggested he had watched too much U.S. television.
Among all the comments, one phrase stuck out: “Cao Tian considered himself as Michael Bloomberg. Unfortunately, it’s neither the right time, nor the right place.”
Bloomberg was originally a business magnate, having founded the Bloomberg media company. This year he was ranked the 10th richest person in America with a fortune of $25 billion – his annual mayoral salary is a symbolic $1. Although he didn’t have any previous experience in public service, Bloomberg has done well and is popular with New Yorkers.
Bloomberg did not have an impressive family background. He went through quite a bit of ups and downs before becoming successful -- a real model for the “American dream.”
It’s not known whether Cao Tian was inspired by Michael Bloomberg. However, there are many similarities between their aspirations. And I personally believe that not only is Cao entitled to have his dream of becoming a mayor, but he should also represent the “Chinese dream.”
“Renewal is the greatest dream”
Xi Jinping, the new general secretary of the Communist Party, recently talked about the Chinese dream while visiting an exhibition in Beijing: “Everyone has their own ideal and pursuit, as well as their own dream. Now people are also discussing the Chinese dream and what that dream is. I think realizing the great renewal of the Chinese nation is the greatest dream for China in modern history.”
This was the first time a Chinese leader has used the concept of a "Chinese dream" in public. From the tone of Xi, he was expressing his personal view and did not seem to be giving it a concrete definition, however I am convinced that Xi’s concept of the Chinese dream includes the dreams of every Chinese individual.
The Chinese nation is not an empty concept. It is made up of ordinary, yet ambitious individuals with their own pursuits and ideals. Only when everyone has the opportunity to find their own happiness and achieve their individual dreams can we fulfill the Chinese dream.
This Chinese dream should have accommodated Cao’s dream. Cao also challenged the current rules for selecting officials – something that had legal basis. Officials at all levels are traditionally nominated by the Chinese Communist Party.
Cai Xia, professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC, says that the Electoral Law gives Cao the right to run for mayor as long as there are 20 deputies from the people’s congress to nominate him. Officials are servants of the people. So as long as Cao follows procedure, why can’t he run for mayor?
Naturally, making the Chinese dream come true requires various conditions -- the most important of which being a relaxed and inclusive environment that allows every citizen to exercise their rights. Then a variety of individual dreams can blossom and beautify the greater Chinese dream.
Cao’s dream is part of the Chinese dream. It should have the same respect and opportunity that Michael Bloomberg’s had.