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German student cycles around China in search of Chinese Dream

By Yunxin Bao (People's Daily Online)    16:11, December 08, 2017

Jorg, a German postgraduate majoring in Chinese studies at Zhejiang University, cycled 5,800 kilometers across 12 provinces in China searching for ordinary people’s Chinese dreams.

He said that cycling gives him an opportunity to talk to ordinary people, wherever and with whomever he wants. “Cycling, without any doubt, is the best way to explore China and its people,” he said.

Jorg, also known by the Chinese name Yue Kaihan, first encountered the buzzword “Chinese Dream” in 2013. Put forward by President Xi Jinping, it calls on people to collectively pursue the goals of constructing a moderately prosperous society and national rejuvenation. The 26-year-old, who attended Zhejiang University’s Chinese Studies Institute for his master’s degree, proposed a road trip for his dissertation on “Ordinary People’s Chinese Dream.”

With a backpack and a foldable bicycle, Jorg set his feet on 12 provinces from the northernmost city of Mohe to the southernmost city of Sanya within 100 days. Along the way, he set up a public account on Chinese social media platform WeChat to record and share his experiences.

From “stubborn” to “harmonious,” his impression of China changed

Before, Chinese politics and economics bored Jorg because of stereotyped perceptions, including miserable air quality, crowded metropolises, and lower-class people in extreme poverty.

The university offered him a second chance to better understand China. The country became more real and multi-dimensional to him from the heated class discussions on historical, cultural, and social issues.

“Everyone has a different Chinese dream,” Jorg said. People he encountered along the way expressed their own ways of living, future wishes, and personal perspectives. A restaurant owner he met in Heilongjiang hoped to help more elders in the neighborhood in order to relieve the younger generation. A construction worker in Guangxi wanted to live a better-off life. A college student in Changchun City was striving to achieve his personal goals and repay society.

In accordance with most Germans, Jorg thinks Chinese are diligent, humble, and intellectual, but with one more addition: harmonious. “In fact, I barely had any depressing experience here. I often walked with strangers on the road or slept outside, things we are warned about as children in Germany,” Jorg claimed. “I’ve seen lots of people in the middle of a conflict, but none of them deteriorated into public violence, and it never involved me.”

The curiosity and enthusiasm of all the people he encountered impressed him the most. Jorg gave an example of him almost losing his backpack with money, his passport, and a camera inside while cycling in Tangshan. A random driver passing by spent an hour helping him try to find it before they found it in a small shop. The backpack was picked up by stranger and given to the shopkeeper.

Jorg’s Chinese Dream

“Everyone has their own challenges and to overcome them it takes enormous patience and determination, not just money or resources,” Jorg said. He claims this China cycle trip was a dream come true and if his research inspired anyone, then that is good too.

Jorg now works as a sales manager in automobile industry in Munich, Germany, aiming to connect the Chinese market with Europe. Jorg showed great interest in the Belt and Road Initiative, adding that he still had a long way to go before he could integrate his curiosity of China into a plan. 

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