NPR has an excerpt of a new book by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum, That Used To Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back. I look forward to reading the whole book, but the short excerpt at NPR displays a kind of China-envy: "It took China's Teda Construction Group thirty-two weeks to build a world-class convention center from the ground up — including giant escalators in every corner — and it was taking the Washington Metro crew twenty-four weeks to repair two tiny escalators of twenty-one steps each."
Meanwhile, the Chinese themselves have a kind of America-envy, according to an Associated Press dispatch from Beijing: "the property developer shares something surprising with many newly rich in China: he's looking forward to the day he can leave. Su's reasons: He wants to protect his assets, he has to watch what he says in China and wants a second child, something against the law for many Chinese....The United States is the most popular destination for Chinese emigrants, with rich Chinese praising its education and healthcare systems. Last year, nearly 68,000 Chinese-born people became legal permanent residents of the U.S."
My favorite part of the article is the Chinese guy expressing envy of American property rights:
"In China, nothing belongs to you. Like buying a house. You buy it but it will belong to the country 70 years later," said Su, lamenting the government's land leasing system.
"But abroad, if you buy a house, it belongs to you forever," he said. "Both businessmen and government officials are like this. They worry about the security of their assets."
There's a bit of the grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side-of-the-fence phenomenon at work here. The AP article doesn't report on how many Americans are living in China, if not becoming permanent legal residents there, but it is a substantial number. "Su" may want to check with Susette Kelo or with the shareholders of Fannie Mae or AIG before moving to America for the security of its property rights.
In any event, the two pieces make for an interesting juxtaposition.