China vs USA

Here is an interesting comparison from a Lithuanian "Guy" in China, in the comment field of a blog I stumbled upon.
  • Hello Nick,
    I’m Lithuanian. I lived for a fairly long time in the US (Minnesota and Massachusetts) and now I live in China.
    The similarities between the two countries are downright scary. (Especially visible here in the American-inspired, newly-built, fast-living city of Shenzhen.)
    1) Large-scale economic migration (though Americans don’t call that half of their nation that changes house every two years “migrant workers”, that’s basically what they are).
    2) Over-reliance on trucks and cars (though the Chinese seem to be getting a little, just a little smarter with their railways). Governments of both countries arguably care little about the environment.
    3) Cultural insularity - near impossible to make a friend in China without speaking some dialect of Chinese (preferably putonghua). And you just try to live in the US without speaking English… Beyond language, both nations tend to view themselves as, ahem, simply superior. (Because by and large, both have ill-defined inferiority complexes. Americans are often defensive when they compare themselves with Europe, and the Chinese… with America - )
    4) Both the US and China have bafflingly large populations immune to reason. I won’t say anything about the US apart from reminding you to read Nick’s previous editorial. China: just think that most Chinese are not even aware there is censorship in their country. Just… wow.
    5) Lack of social safety nets. Culture of fear quite visible in both countries (though for vastly different reasons). Health care and pensions (I mean mostly lack thereof) give headaches to both Chinese and Americans.
    6) Geographic size. The surface of China is almost precisely that of America (though the landscape is hugely different).
    7) Gated communities for the rich. (And in China, increasingly, the middle class - which is of course vastly richer than the people living on under a dollar a day.) Oh, the joys of life behind armed guards!
    8) Patriotism, support for the army. The Chinese think their army is, ahem, “pure”. I am kidding you not, this is the word they most often use to describe the PLA. Pure.
    As to America, a more flag-waving country there will never be.
    9) Cut-throat capitalism. (Though to be honest the Chinese labor market is similar to the one America had in the 19th century… not now.)
    10) Astounding hypocrisy with regard to sex and mores in both countries. For instance, both the Americans and the Chinese are too virtuous to gamble, that’s why the first only do it in Indian reservations and on rivers, and the second in Macau I won’t even talk about sex ed (Though, again, the US is subject to strong regional variations and China’s cities are light-years away from the hinterlands).
    And lest you think I am a sour European:
    11) People from both nations tend to be hospitable and quite sweet. All you need to do is shout “China is the best”! or “USA no 1″! and you are treated to endless rounds of beer or bai jiu! Then business is going very, very well - it’s amazing!
    I find both nations endlessly and hopelessly and equally weird, but I’m quite fond of both… and their quaint little ways.
    kind regards,a Lithuanian
    — Posted by Guy in China

As for the owner of that blog, this is part of his resume, "...He's also one of the very few Americans to be at least a two-time visitor to every member of the Axis of Evil. ..." Huh? Axis of Evil? :)

Anyway, here is my take

  1. Migration in US is perhaps because it is a 'big' country; for China, a bit articificial/temperal because of the economic special zone (the average distance of migration has significantly shortened in the last few years, when the Sichuan girl is not able to find work in Chengdu, instead of Shenzhen, resulting in (cheap) labour shortage in the sweatshops in Guangdong
  2. May I also add mega-stores (Wal-marts!) on top of car
  3. "insularity" is common to 'big' countries, I guess. But I am sure there is more Chinese who speak English than American who speak Chinese :)
  4. True. Though I would like to argue that it is unfair to use total number as a measure. Perhaps in terms of % population they are on par with the Lithuanians
  5. Hmm... social safety net. Nice observation. I know this but never really make the comparison. Perhaps this is related to #9 below
  6. China = dry + dry + wet; USA = wet + dry + wet. Geographically, USA is like China with an Ocean to its west, hence twice as much of arable land
  7. I saw walled community in Shanghai. But urban China is a much much safer place than the US (Inner city, I mean)
  8. Agree
  9. Couldn't agree more. They are both the most capitalistic countries in this world
  10. This one is even nicer observation. Chinese gamble in Las Vegas and American find sex in Shanghai!


momo said...

One more thing: US must pass Patriot Act to enforce loyalty from its people. In China, patriotism is free will. Tibet, QED!
But actually Americans are usually inclusive people. Shopping once in New York for skincare for my Japanese boyfren, I got talking with the sales associate. Finally, she asked me where I come from.
Malaysia. Without batting an eyelid, she said: ``Oh, yer from outta town.''
Oh. OK. I guess US is a big country. Cairo. Paris, Texas. London. Even a small town called Hell. So why not Malaysia. ;-)

老麥 said...

1) Intra-country, yes. China is still relatively closed to foreign immigrants.

3) Inferiority complex is a big issue in China. The sad history of late Qing is sealed in Chinese DNA.

4) yes but changing fast, though. Chinese had a long history of 'approximism'

5) Social security system in US and Japan under stress test now.. When working population declines and economy matures, this system may not work. Let's see.

7) Same in most capitalist countries!

8) Not sure

9) Definitely. The Chinese are probably more capitalist than American if we count the % of population.

10) Interesting comment :)

11) That should be pretty universal .. 千穿萬穿,馬屁不穿. Same in Muslim countries (Iran, Morocco etc)