Answers by Chinese Citizens Prompt New Questions

Sociologist, author Gerald Lemos uncovers 'fear and frustration'

HONG KONG, August 27, 2012 — Who are you? What events changed your life? What is your greatest worry? What do you wish for?

These were the four questions that British sociologist Gerard Lemos asked when he was collecting material and gauging sentiments to write The End of the Chinese Dream: Why Chinese People Fear the Future

In a discussion moderated by senior correspondent for Reuters James Pomfret at Asia Society Hong Kong Center, Lemos explained that he wanted to hear the voices of ordinary Chinese people rather than conduct a statistical study. He posed these questions to ordinary citizens throughout the metropolis of Chongqing in southwestern China.

Reading the answers revealed an undercurrent of insecurity, frustration, and isolation resonating among the Chinese public, he said. The most common concern was health care and the cost of getting medical treatment and medications.

Although China’s rapid economic growth over the past few decades has benefited millions of Chinese citizens, the country's lack of a social safety network, poor public services, virtually ineffectual legal system, and a highly competitive social atmosphere have made, according to Lemos, "quite a large community" feel left out and excluded. Migrant workers, who are not granted hukou (residency permits) in the provinces where they work, bear the brunt of injustice and lack of social security.

Lemos emphasized the need to make procedural justice more accessible to the average Chinese citizens — who have after all contributed significantly to China's economy — in order to make life more equitable and more secure for them.

Reported by Audrey Yoo

Video: Watch the complete program (1 hr., 1 min.)