Is the West Truly Jealous of China? No! (opinion)
If you were to visit China, a common occurrence that you will likely encounter is that its citizens often want to know what you think of China. Part of this is perhaps an exchanging of cultural pleasantries, however, part of it is also a nation that is looking for international acceptance after it worked tirelessly to overcome the poor economic policies of its past. Don't get me wrong, there are many things to like about China, as it is a country that is steeped in cultural and culinary history, and offers a level of day to day excitement that just doesn't exist in the West. Yet, most of us come here because it is a land that is so different, not because we feel it will offer us a better quality of life. Yet, trying to convey this thought often get lost in translation as I have seen so many of these conversations quickly end with "[insert Western Country name] is just jealous of China!". This common phenomena is partly due China's culture of saving face, where one tries to maintain its dignity, even if it's through deflection or denial.
Nevertheless, there is no denying that China has come a long way in terms of economic development over the last 30 years. Yet, in terms of economic success measured on a per capita basis, the country ranks only 79 out of 189 countries, coming in just ahead of the Maldives, but below Iraq and well below most Western countries.
And although income is an important aspect of a persons quality of life, it's certainly does not rule out other factors that the West may indeed be jealous of. Based on anecdotal evidence, there are things this country truly is doing better than the West. For instance, its public transportation and its affordability puts most Western countries to shame. In addition, I found the country's willingness to swiftly adopt and implement new technologies added great convenience to what is normally a hectic and oftentimes stressful life in China.
However, these positive elements are overshadowed by something this country has never been able to offer its citizens; an innate quality of Western democracies, that most of us take it for granted. Yes, I'm talking about freedom. It may sound cliche for a westerner to value such an intangible and often overlooked human right, but after living in China, I have come to greatly appreciate this core tenet that democracies are founded on.
Civil rights in China remain questionable at best at non-existent at worst. The right to information, free speech, free press, and religion were an afterthought when this country was founded 70 years ago and it seems China is in no hurry in giving such freedoms to its citizens. Conversely, it appears the government it doing just the opposite as indiscriminate punishments are handed down to social "dissenters" and social unrest continues to build following a myriad of governmental follies.
The country has become something of a George Orwell novel, where mass surveillance, censorship, and swift punishments are carried out for anyone that questions the Party's rule. Although, I have been here for only a few years, I have witnessed countless human rights violations and infringements on civil rights that often go unreported in the west. Everything from genocide of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang to the comparatively minor act of friends and acquaintances being detained and/or deported.
However, I haven't lost hope on China. This is because countries like Taiwan and Hong Kong, which both have historical and ethnic ties to the mainland exemplify what this country could be in the future. A rich and developed economy, founded on universal freedoms which offer a quality of life that rivals or even surpass many of its Western counterparts, exemplifying something truly to be jealous of.
So what is the West truly jealous of? If you know, we would like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.