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By Jeff J. Brown
Sixteen years on the streets, living and working with the people of China, Jeff
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Hello, everybody. Well, first off, I’d like to thank Annette, who became a Patreon supporter of China Rising Radio Sinoland, and she sent me some questions that I thought were excellent. And I’d like to answer those, not only for her, but for all the fans out there, because I think it’s extremely informative.
Annette’s Question #1: What about the 996 work ethic pressures, how to have a life and family working so much?
Jeff’s answer #1: 996, if you don’t know the meaning, that’s to work from nine in the morning till six at night, six days a week.
Not only in China but all over the world entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, restaurant owners, mechanics, and self-employed people, 996 is usually not enough. They’re working sometimes 80 hours a week, 90 hours a week. I mean, that’s just the way it is when you’re self-employed. But it is true that the Chinese do work really, really hard. And it’s not just the Chinese, the whole Eastern Asian area, the Koreans, the Chinese, the Japanese and although it’s not really yeah, it’s not Northern Asia but the Vietnamese work just as hard. Things start to slack off in the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, et cetera.
And I know nothing about India because I have not been there. I’ve been to 85 countries, but I have not been to India. But the Chinese do work really, really hard. It’s just a part of their nature. When I was back in Shenzhen in May and I’ll be back in China for a month in September or October, they had Chinese signs, you all would call them propaganda, but for the Chinese, they’re public service announcements. And one of them just said, “Go see a psychiatrist”. So, Baba Beijing realizes that. And of course, that’s mostly because of the extreme pressures and stress that were brought on by Covid not only in China but all over the world, including here in France.
I mean the neurosis of being locked down all over the world for two and a half years. And there are other street signs, like “Balance work and play”. And so, they have these expressions and they talk about it in all of these propaganda public announcement type posters: family, work, school, et cetera. They’re hard workers and that’s why they’re winning. And you also have to understand that in China, family is not what it is like in the West, with its Marlboro Man, individualistic me, me, me. There is tremendous cohesion in the vast majority of Chinese families, be it rural, urban, big city, small town, or whatever.
And I’ll get to that more, as far as your Question Number Three. When I’m there, the Chinese, yeah, they work hard, but they’re happy. As I said, everybody should go to my Twitter account,
Daily news: https://twitter.com/44_Days)
I have posted a bunch of wonderful, short little bullets about life in China. So, they have tremendous cohesion. The family supports each other. They help each other. And there is a tremendous sense of social solidarity in the neighborhoods, in your building block, in your town et cetera.
There’s a tremendous amount of cohesion and mutual support that we just don’t have in the West. So, I think that’s why they are able to work so hard and stay happy and prosper because of all that support. And as well, they have government support. It’s a communist-socialist country. So, they have a lot of government support programs et cetera to help the people. Whom I call Baba Beijing, the leadership can move in if there’s an issue or a problem and take care of the people’s needs or concerns.
So, I think that’s how they can get away with the 996 work ethic.
Q#2: The second question that Annette had is about health care and insurance system.
A#2: Obviously, up until 1978, Mao Zedong died in 1976. And then when Deng Xiaoping took the reins in 1978, he started dismantling the Mao era iron rice bowl. Of course, back then, everybody had medical care and it was obviously very good because in 1949, the average life expectancy in China was, mark these numbers, 35 years of age in 1949. That was the average life expectancy in China in 1949.
And I think it’s 26 years or whatever it is in 1976 when Mao died, it was 65 years age. That’s how much health care helped the Chinese people during the Mao era. So, they were actually getting excellent medical care during the Mao era. And of course, if the Mao era would have continued, then the life expectancy would have undoubtedly gone up and it did continue to go up. But during the reform and opening up during the Deng Xiaoping era, which I call the Wild East Buckaroo Days, they dismantled the iron rice bowl.
They dismantled the Barefoot Doctors. They got rid of them in the countryside. And they basically privatized all of the hospitals, although they were still state-owned, they were expected to get rich just like everybody else. So, it was capitalism from 1978 into the 2000s, just get rich whatever it takes to make money make it. And that’s when my wife and I were living there from 1990 to 1997. Oh, man, it was wild. It was just street level, jungle, jungle rough and ready capitalism, like a gold mining town.
And so, unfortunately, the hospitals were thrown into that same thing. And it became extremely American. They basically adopted the American medical system, that being if you don’t have any money, you die. And what’s the best medical advice in the United States? If you don’t have any money and the typically crappy plans with thousands of dollars of deductibles and thousands of dollars of co-pays, don’t get sick. And if you get sick, don’t go see the doctor.
Well, that started happening more and more in China into the 80s and 90s when we were there. And especially for hospitalization, you couldn’t even walk into a hospital in the 80s, in the 90s, when we were there, unless you had ¥5,000 or ¥10,000 to put cash on the barrel head to get in (we always kept 10,000 yuan under the bed, just in case). So, it was very, very cynical and very, very American and very, very capitalistic. And people were dying on the sidewalks and a lot of suffering, et cetera. In 2010, the president of China, Hu Jintao, said enough of this American medical system.
And he even pithily made a public announcement saying as a bit of a riposte to the United States, saying civilized people take care of their people and make sure they get adequate medical care. So, we’re talking in 2010, China still with 1.3 billion people back then. When we got back in 2010 and stayed until 2019. During that period, they rolled out a Universal Health Card just like here in France for every Chinese citizen. It’s just unbelievable. And every Chinese citizen had at least theoretically, access to the medical system and would not be left on the streets to die.
Once Hu Jintao made that announcement, that it became much better organized. The hospitals were told to back off. The government started to re-fund the State-Owned Hospitals, although there in the bigger cities like Beijing, where we lived in the 90s, and then in Beijing and Shenzhen, where we lived from 2016 until 2019, there are private hospitals and there are hospitals that cater to, have a special wing for foreigners, for languages, et cetera. Although my wife and I when we were in Beijing and Shenzhen, we went to public hospitals and got along just fine.
So, they got this Universal Health Card going for 1.3 billion people. Can you imagine the database for that? And the downside was, is that in order for it to really be effective, you had to get your treatment in your home town. China has the Hukou System where your ID card is attached to where you were born. So, in a town like Shenzhen, where there are millions of people who left their hometown and are now living and working in Shenzhen, the Universal Health Card didn’t help much. And what happened?
Well, it helped, but it took a long time to get paid back from your home province, since they made each province, the 34 provinces of China having a database. And so, in Shenzhen, you had to come up with the money. If you were not in your Hukou district, you had to come up with the money to get the treatment and then you sent the paperwork to your home province and then they would pay back. Luckily it’s a zero deductible. It’s not like in the United States where people have fake health insurance and there’s a $10,000 deductible for each member of the family.
So, you have to spend $40,000 before you get a nickel. And so, but there was a co-pay. And so, they were starting out paying 60, 70% of the total. Well, if you have heart surgery, you still had to come up with the 30 or 40%. But, it was a good start. The insurance companies were lagging behind at the beginning and they started rolling out into 2010. They started rolling out mutual policies, like here in France. My wife and I have a mutual insurance policy that supplements our national health insurance here, our Universal Health Card.
And so, for €104 a month, we pay nothing. We go to the doctor, the hospital, medicine, prescriptions, et cetera, it’s all covered by National Health Insurance. And what isn’t covered is paid for by the mutual. So, that started happening in China. However, I understand that a lot of people are not buying mutual insurance, and I’m going to try to find out more when I go back in September. And I even reported on Twitter, about a website in China where people are asking for donations because they need help, sort of like, what is that crowd? Not crowdfunding. What’s that one? Change.org or whatever.
Anyway, it’s a website where you go and you can give money to people. And a lot of those people on that website are for big, big medical expenses like heart surgery, brain surgery, cancer, et cetera. So, probably like some people here in France, they don’t buy a mutual. And if they go to the hospital and they’re stuck with 30% of the bill, they’re going to have to pay it. And so, I think there’s a learning lag with the Chinese that, okay, you’ve got this national health insurance but you still need to buy a mutual.
And I don’t know if it’s even cost-effective or competitive or if people are just reluctant to get it. The other good thing is, is that because of this huge problem, say I’m living and working in Beijing and I’ve got surgery but I’m from Dalian, how do I make it work? They have now started to integrate the 34 provincial databases into one big gigantic national database. And as I understand it, it is better now in terms of being able to access your Hukou Hometown Policy Universal Health Card and get health care outside of that province. So, compared to the United States, I mean, of course, that the United States is a real outlier.
Most, Japan, I mean, Australia, New Zealand all across Europe, and Canada although I understand with all the neoliberal austerity capitalist plunder of the public commonwealth, each province in Canada is cutting back more and more. The National Health Service in England is on life support. One of the great national Prides of Britain after World War Two has now been completely bastardized by neoliberal austerity. Cost cutting and it’s happening here in France, too. And I do know that China is going to incredible efforts to reduce costs in the medical system, duplication, and fraud.
There have been cases of fraud in China, just like everywhere else around the world, doctors getting greedy and making fake claims, et cetera. But with China’s massive capacity, with big data, artificial intelligence, et cetera, I think they’ll probably be able to bring that under control. Would I rather get sick in China or what I rather get sick in the United States? I’d rather get sick in China, I think my chances would be much, much better. It’s not as good as France. But France is like one province in China. And kind of a small one at that, but it’s definitely, definitely better than what the United States calls their medical system.
Q#3: All right. The next question is about the safety nets for single moms and those unemployed.
A#3: A lot of people don’t know, but China actually has high payroll taxes. They have a 5% VAT on virtually everything in China. There’s a 5% VAT. And the payroll taxes are very high. I would say as high as France’s. I mean, there’s disability, there’s unemployment, et cetera. And so, they do have unemployment insurance. I have not looked into it how it pays out, et cetera. But they do have unemployment insurance.
They do have a national union, although they don’t do all the publicity stunts that happen around like here in France going on and protesting, et cetera, because they’re integrated in with the federal government in Beijing. They work hand in hand with industry. They work hand in hand with doctors, lawyers, all the different interest groups shopkeepers, industrial, medium-sized small enterprises, and large enterprises. You have to have a union and I think it’s over 20 people in China, you have to have a union, maybe 50, but it’s like France is the same way, you have to have a union if you get over 50 employees.
And so, Chinese unions do work, to be sure. And of course, as I’ve pointed out, salaries in China have doubled every ten years since the 1980s. So, in 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010, and 2020, salaries doubled in China. So, you multiply that up and so, they’re doing very, very well. Would I rather be an employee in China, or would I rather be an employee in the United States where unions are toothless? Basically, they just exist in name only and disability pay is almost impossible to get and unemployment is almost impossible to get. No, I’d rather be in China.
Is China as good as France? No. But again, they’re bastardizing it here. The neoliberals, they’re trying to take it away. So, we’ll see how long that lasts here in France.
Safety nets for single moms. First off, I mean, if Annette, if you’re talking about a woman gets pregnant and she’s not married, as they do here all over Europe now and in the United States, I think I’ve read somewhere that one-third of the children in Sweden are born out of wedlock. So, that doesn’t happen very often in China, where they’re still very conservative, socially conservative. And the institution of marriage is still a huge part of a Chinese person’s life.
So, now if you’re talking about. But even then, they remember the family. The family is there. So, let’s say a woman gets, I mean, I’m sure there are maybe some of them out there, but I’ve never heard of a woman sleeping with a guy and getting pregnant and having the baby in China. And not having a father. I’ve just never heard of it. I’m sure it happens, but nothing like in the West. And of course, here in the West, a lot of people here in France don’t even know who the father is, which is a sad, sad situation. So, their birth certificate is father unknown.
That’s very, very unlikely to happen in China. But let’s say they get a divorce and now she’s single and she gets the children. Men here are expected to pay alimony and child support. I have not looked into how it is legislated, but I know they have to pay, because part of the Social Credit System that everybody in the West freaks out about is (http://chinarising.puntopress.com/2018/01/11/chinas-public-social-credit-system-versus-the-wests-secret-panopticon-china-rising-radio-sinoland-180111/), is that if the husband or the ex-husband and the father do not pay, they get chased down with the Social Credit System and cause them a lot of misery.
There are people getting upset in the West, where they’ll flash a photograph of some guy on a public video screen saying this guy has not paid his alimony and child support. Well, I think that’s a wonderful idea to shame him into doing what’s right. So, there is a system, and I need to find out more. I suspect it’s probably when the divorce is decided in the court system, I suspect that it is decided how much the husband has to pay the wife’s alimony and the children’s child support.
And if the husband, ex-husband, or father is a deadbeat until the Social Credit System shames him for doing the right thing, remember the family. I always joked about one of my older daughters already married, and we’re grandparents for a year now. But I always joked with them and I still joke with my younger daughter, but she knows because she was with us in China from 2010 to 2019. You marry a Chinese guy. You’re marrying the family, baby. So, there are still I don’t know if it’s more than half, but I would say it’s more than half, way more than half.
You have a baby. You are a three-generation family, because grandpa and or grandma on one of the sides of the family is going to move in and if they can’t move in on a permanent basis until the child gets older, they will come in and they’ll do rotation. Grandpa comes for a month and then Grandma comes for a month. And then the other side of the family, the grandpa comes for a month and then the grandma comes for a month and if there’s enough room. Then they’ll come as a couple and they’ll take care of the children. That’s why daycare, I mean, there may be daycare. I just haven’t seen it in China, except for private after-school/pre-school learning centers.
But you don’t need it because there’s so much family support. You’ve got aunts and uncles and cousins. I mean, the family is everything in China. It’s very Confucian, extremely Confucian. And the family is at the top of someone’s life on a daily basis. So, well, I’ve never seen women on the street begging for money. There are no beggars in China. There were a few back in the 90s, back during the Wild East Buckaroo Days of jungle capitalism. There were a few beggars on the streets back then. But not now.
And I did a report on my website, China Rising Radio Sinoland, a couple of three years ago about a woman who did not get redress for her complaint about some program that she was entitled to. And so, she went out on the street with her husband and was selling her breast milk! That got Baba Beijing’s attention and her situation was solved. As I say, in China, there are 300 to 500 public demonstrations and protests EVERY DAY. And as long as it’s about something legitimate and not holding up a sign saying that Xi Jinping sucks or I hate the Communist Party, and also what you can do, is just go to the mayor’s office or go online and make a complaint.
I’ve made complaints myself. I’ve gone to my local mayor’s office and made a complaint. So, if I can do it, I know that the Chinese can do it. They wrote it all down. I signed it. But now more and more, it’s happening online. So, other than that, I think I’d rather be a single mom in China, rather than in the United States. I would rather be a single mom in China. They even have better maternity benefits and better paternity leave and better maternity leave than in France and most of the rest of Europe. Plus, the mom gets breastfeeding privileges, I think, out to a year and they get six months for sure.
They have maternity leave. The husband, the father gets it too. I’ll look into it when I get back in September, but I think it’s a month. So, again, it’s family. And the fact that China, like every other developed country is getting richer and richer, more and more educated, the birth rate starts to fall off. And I can predict with confidence that Baba Beijing is going to be offering a lot more pro-family, pro-children policies to encourage people to have babies (see postscript below). So, it’s a great place to have children.
Now, (chuckling) the wife who has her mother-in-law living with her may not agree, or the son who has his mother-in-law living with them may not agree, but it’s been going on for thousands of years and it’s worked out fine. And the children are raised with two generations of education. And I think it’s wonderful. So, although it never happened to me, because I’m married to a French lady.
Anyway, Annette, I hope I answered your questions and I will get this up and produced as soon as possible as well as transcribed. And now I’m trying to turn this my thing off and I can’t. Oh, there we go. This is Jeff J. Brown China Rising Radio Sinoland signing out. Bye-bye.
PS: after reading the above, a friend sent me this interesting news,
Marriage certificate no longer needed for receiving birth subsidy in multiple Chinese cities to boost birth rate
Do yourself, your friends, family and colleagues a favor, to make sure all of you are Sino-smart:
Google ebooks (Epub) and audiobooks:
44 Days Backpacking in China: The Middle Kingdom in the 21st Century, with the United States, Europe and the Fate of the World in Its Looking Glass https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=YBKHEAAAQBAJ
China Rising: Capitalist Roads, Socialist Destinations https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=YNmLEAAAQBAJ
BIG Red Book on China: Chinese History, Culture and Revolution
Amazon print and ebooks (Kindle):
44 Days Backpacking in China: The Middle Kingdom in the 21st Century, with the United States, Europe and the Fate of the World in Its Looking Glass
China Rising: Capitalist Roads, Socialist Destinations
BIG Red Book on China: Chinese History, Culture and Revolution
Praise for The China Trilogy:
Why and How China works: With a Mirror to Our Own History
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