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China versus America: a Conversational Comparison

Chinese and American Flags

Chinese and American Flags

Many folks in very important acronym-named think tanks spend their days thinking about the China versus America issue. I wish they would contact me; I could solve their dilemmas for them with relative ease since I’ve lived in both countries and am an avid complainer and comparison maker. This is an impressive title, but way too long for a business card which is why you’ve probably never heard of me in this capacity.

Let’s discuss employment on the China versus America issue, since that is a hot topic in both countries at present. China is an amazing place to live as an expat, and that is the side of China I have known over the past few years. Naturally I’m living in the upper middle class by Chinese standards while I’m there, so for the vast majority of Chinese, my opinions may seem elitist and literally ass backwards. I’m okay with that since I’ve given this disclaimer. I easily found work in China, decently paying, legal and taxed work as an editor at a bank complete with benefits, a swivel chair and a key card that beeped when you held it near the door.

I’ve lived in America as a child, and as a college student, but have spent less than a year as a gainfully employed American. This is partially because I have never been able to find work in the USA. I worked a few odd jobs in college and found a ridiculous post-grad school job that made me want to razor burn my eyeballs, but aside form that all I do is collect polite rejection letters. In the words of the late Kurt Vonnegut, “So it goes…” Yet the economy in the US is dropping like gravity has a hold of it while the situation in China is, in relative terms, defying gravity. Employing myself in any major city in China would be as easy as showing up with some resumes, a nice suit and the ability to speak my native tongue without drooling on myself.

Let’s tackle one additional hot topic in the China versus America issue – health care. In China I got pneumonia and spent $13 USD on a doctor’s visit, X-ray, analysis, blood work, analysis again, examination, more analysis and then medication. That’s $13 total to cure me of pneumonia and over two hours of office face time with doctors and lab folks. And by the way, I got all of my results within that two hours, including blood work and x-ray sheets. With surprising irony, I also got pneumonia in America a few years ago. The doctor met with me for five seconds, said I sounded funny when she put a stethoscope against my back and then wrote a prescription on a sticky pad. Comparatively, the later experience was like getting a medical check from a caveman.  The cost for my America visit nearly gave me an aneurysm (which, by the way, I could never afford in the USA)! Most intelligent folks will be saying, and yes I can hear you yelling through the world wide web’s invisible tubes, that China’s costs are lower due to the sheer volume of people paying for these goods and services. That’s true! I’m not here to argue, I’m just here to say that if I ever get sick again I’ll be standing in line in a Chinese hospital more confident and happy than if I was anywhere in the USA where doctors just prescribe you a drug and then slam the door in your face. I have no opinion on the health care debate now stalled in the US government except to say that I would hope we could come up with something better than bankrupting people for antiquated care and over-drugging them so they don’t care.

That’s all for this addition of China versus America. Tune in next time to hear my thoughts on freedom of press and gender equality. Fun, fun, fun!




9 thoughts on “China versus America: a Conversational Comparison

  1. Sherry Ott

    Love this! I only had emergency insurance when I lived in Vietnam which cost me $500 for the whole year. It was from a western insurance firm…don’t worry, they weren’t going to ship me to the Socialist Emergency Room. I never bothered getting any other insurance because trips to the doctor or dentist were cheap – so I just went when I got sick and paid out of pocket. Now back in the US – I struggle to afford insurance and pray I don’t get sick! Americans counter with the fact that we have the best care in the world…however our life expectancy isn’t the best in the world…not even close!
    Oh…a touchy subject for sure – but thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!
    I’ll also try to wipe the drool off my face when I go apply for my next job in Asia! 🙂

  2. Caleb

    A rather glib assessment. The American economy, through unadulterated free market capitalism, has managed to sustain a 2-3% growth rate for generations, a vitality and reliability that is much the envy of nearly every aspiring economy and emerging market throughout the world. Despite the recent contraction, the US market has propelled the global economy for decades and will continue to do so, not to mention raising the world economy from the rubble of the second world war through the stimulus of the Marshal plan. The Chinese owe their current economic success to their bastardized vision of pseudo-capitalism, blending elements of free enterprise entrepreneurship under the strangle-hold of the same despotic Communist regime of old. An economy fueled by cheap plastic trinkets, exploited workers, and an intentionally devalued currency growing at a blistering 12% yet devoid of any discernable monetary policy is only primed for a meteoric collapse under the weight of crippling inflation. Short-sighted, ephemeral, and irresponsible, these policies are unendorsed by any rational economist outside the Pacific rim. As for healthcare, one would be well advised to avoid catching anything more than a cold in a third world nation. Advanced acute care, detection, and surgical interventions are abyssmal or nonexistant, yet antibiotics are cheap and effective, as they are in any health care delivery system. Antibiotics owed to the research and development and enterprised mass production of, oh yes, Western medicine. Just sayin’.

  3. Lauren

    Caleb,

    Thanks for the commentary. It’s great to have worthy debate.

    Growth rates aside (as I’m not sure the point of any country is simply to expand its economy) your critic of the Chinese economy seems biting. The comparison of modern China to the US industrialization period comes to mind, a time when the US had little regulation, cheap labor and few labor laws (Lowell girls). China is going through exactly what the US did. Regardless, their lack of concern for human rights is out of control (and the most important road block in their progress, as a people, a government and economy). I spent much of 2008 working in an investment bank, and very few would agree with your assessment that the Chinese economy will collapse, but it’s a point well taken that inflation could seriously undermine growth. Then again, much more internal growth and no one will outsource to China, so it’s a catch 22 (and a large reason why they refuse to revalue their currency). On the inverse, our government is beyond bankrupt, bickering endlessly and unable or unwilling to make any kind of meaningful progress. That’s not in comparison to China, but in comparison to our own historical legacy, which makes it all the more painful.

    I wasn’t suggesting capitalism was a failed experiment;–in short, there is a free market economy on each tier of the hierarchy in our society, you don’t see a lot of millionaires at Wal-Mart, after all, because that is where the plebs shop – its that we we’ve managed not to progress much past feudalism was my point. And this isn’t to suggest I’d favor communism or socialism. All experiments in both have failed, though it may be that there is a natural evolution of society wherein we begin in feudalism, experience democracy and eventually (like the Netherlands and much of Europe) play with the concept of socialist democracies. Just a thought.

    Concerning healthcare, western medicine is renowned for treating the symptom, not the problem. Chinese medicine does the inverse and works much more slowly. There are a lot of benefits in both practices. My initial point was that I cannot afford US medicine, but can afford the best in China. This is probably because the sheer number of people using the hospitals in Asia means overall costs can be lower. Nevertheless, my tale of having pneumonia in both countries proved to me (as we can really only judge the world by our experiences) that I’d rather be sick in Asia where I can afford to go to the hospital, than sick in America, where the treatment may be unaffordable or land me in debt. I’m uninsured and unemployed, if I get sick in America I’m screwed, and that’s a fact. And while detection practices may be top-of-the-line in the USA, our system does not address prevention (neither does the Chinese system). I doubt there are very few Americans who are completely happy with our health care, making a comparison was just a way to highlight some facts about our system, not to say another was wholly better.

  4. B

    The singular issue is not capitalism, democracy or socialism. It is freedom. Conscious man, able to reason, seeks his own liberty and freedom. All forms of institution are corrupt and will eventually become enslaving.

    Where there is liberty and freedom, I say enjoy, whether it be Vietnam, China or America.

    Remember one thing though, only one nation’s governing principles are founded on liberty and freedom. That is only one nation in history.

    Might be worthwhile to support those who wish to keep that one nation free.

  5. goede schilder

    I just wanna express gratitude for that information you’ve shared. Just continue writing such a publish. I will be your loyal reader. Many thanks yet again.

  6. Independent007

    There will be a minor revolt in America soon. It will be an economic people driven revolt.

    That will be the signal for the big corporations to stop ruling America via their politicians and to allow the politicians to actually represent the people.

    But then Americans are still asleep at the wheel and the big boys know it.
    Keep em’ divided and conquer.

    Its a shame, but then its like that to an extent in every country right?

  7. AbandontheCube Post author

    I assume it is like this in most countries, if the companies don’t attempt to control people then the government will. Its almost as if the ‘free market’ is yet another check and balance in the US system, which usually I’d find good except that there isn’t really any room left for the people themselves to have a say what with the government’s three branches, business and then everyone in between (read: lobbyists, lawyers and the media).

    Interesting thoughts Independent007, thanks for commenting! I don’t know if a mini revolt will happen in the US– I’m more prone to think our middle class complacency keeps us from risking what we have in hopes of gaining more. We’ll see.

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