President [Xi Jinping's] speech ... made it clear that the main theme of the China dream should be the people and not the government. It made clear that this would require private property rights for citizens, and an end to monopolies. By giving the China dream back to the people, the government will be able to protect the individual dreams of ordinary citizens in future.
If the whole nation must dream the same dream, then this only serves the enthusiasms of revolutionaries. Unfortunately, this sort of dream can only be found in fairy tales; it doesn't exist in real life. If they persist in having their own way and imposing a nationwide system, in forcing people to dream something, this is going to cause untold problems for the whole country.
Mao Zedong tried several times to impose a single dream on the whole country: the dream of socialist transformation; the dream of the Great Leap Forward [1958-1960]; the dream of the Cultural Revolution [1966-1976]. And each one was a waste of manpower and resources and ended in total defeat.
It is normal in peacetime, and in a civilized society, for people to each have their own dream. We can only get back to normality by giving the people back their dreams. It is a great thing for everyone to be able to dream their own dream.
I have two dreams. One is a dream of clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and natural food to eat. In the old [pre-1949] China, these were the requirements of a beggar, but under socialism with Chinese characteristics, it is hard to find a clean patch of earth any more. I am an ordinary citizen.
For me and my children and grandchildren, the clean dream may be more trivial than all these big dreams of a great country, of paradise, or of 'self-confidence in the system,' but it's definitely more valuable. It's something we can't live a day without.
I will continue to support the dream of a clean world, which is also a dream of a renaissance: a renaissance of the rivers and mountains and good earth that our ancestors handed down to us clean. It's not a renaissance of the everlasting politics of the Qin emperor that was handed down to us through the Hanwu emperor, right down to Empress Dowager Cixi, and which was preserved by Mao Zedong in his top-down implementation of the provincial official and county magistrate system of authoritarian rule.
My other dream is one in which I and my fellow citizens can open our mouths and speak, can open our eyes and see; a dream of freedom of expression and communication, and of freedom from fear, where the fear of interference is no longer needed.These protections should have been afforded to citizens through the Constitution. It is distressing that the Constitution has no one to protect it.
The life and the authority of the Chinese Constitution, along with the rights of Chinese citizens, are in the same danger. However, they should be protected in future, because the new leadership has already announced that it will implement the Constitution.
Whether or not they really will let everyone speak out will be the most noteworthy test of whether this turns out to be hard fact or just empty talk.
Translated by Luisetta Mudie.
Bao Tong, political aide to the late ousted premier Zhao Ziyang, is currently under house arrest at his home in Beijing.