Thread: I lived with Cubans in Cuba and I lived in China, here are the differences I noticed

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  1. #1
    Join Date Apr 2008
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    Lightbulb I lived with Cubans in Cuba and I lived in China, here are the differences I noticed

    Before comming to China, I knew that their "socialism" would not be what people from East-Europe, like me, considered socialism.
    In East-Europe when someone says socialist country, everyone immediately assumes a country with free health care, free education, guaranteed jobs, no unemployment, no homeless, and generally a high degree of equality. But also they assume a country will have less choice of consumer goods than western countries. People in east Europe still think China is like that. At least people who don't know much about China still think so.

    I did some research and I assumed that China will have a similar economic system to the US, with the only difference that they have a communist party and might have some propaganda posters about socialism sprinkled here and there. I didn't assume them to have much social welfare or anything.

    I lived in China for a quite long time. And this is what I saw:

    CHINA
    China has indeed an economic system that is very similar to the American system, however, there are many things that remind me of the European system. Especially in the area of social welfare. China builds social housing for the poor, builds cities from ground up (it's normal for them to build a city with a population of 5 million within 10 years, where there was not a single house before). I noticed also that they sincerely attempt to employ as many people as possible. In many shops you will see many employees, and also in the city services you feel that sometimes they have more employed than what they need. They have social insurance, although not like in Europe where the state insurance covers you for all costs forever, the chinese one has a cap, and once used up, you won't get money from them anymore. This is an issue for people like cancer patients or other patients who need expensive treatments. In China unfortunately, after the social insurance is used up, if they dont have the money, they will die. That's why I feel that currently they are somewhere between US and EU regarding social safety nets.

    The income disparity in China is huge, similar to USA, however at the same time I noticed that the real wages for everyone, especially the poorest and the middle class are growing extremely fast, faster than in any other country. By now the average Chinese earns more than the average Russian, so they must be doing something right.

    Still, even though the government calls their system "socialism with chinese characteristics", I felt they betrayed socialism, since they have given up on guaranteeing jobs and health care for everyone since the 1970s Deng Xiaopings reform.

    Then, some years later I went to Cuba and I lived in an apartment with Cubans in Havana. I found out a lot not only about Cuba, but also about the inner workings inside Cuba. This is what I saw:

    CUBA
    Cuba turned out to be exactly how I imagined it to be. I kept its socialist promised. Free education, free health care, no one homeless, no one unemployed (at least I haven't seen anyone). Our host told us that in Cuba, when you finish school, there is a job ready for you to take, you dont even need to look for it. Then after you work there for 2 years, you can decide to work wherever you want, including staying there. Now because Cuba opened itself to tourism, and because the income of say a teacher is around 30$ per month, many decide to work in the tourist industry where through tips they can earn anywhere from 150-1000$ per month. Without a doubt the tourism industry has a massive effect on the wealth of Cubans, because income trickles to a wide range of the Cuban population in the form of service. For example if I stay at a Cuban apartment, my host earns money, she spends more on services from other Cubans (who often charge more if the services are in any way connected to the service industry, like repairing a washing machine for someone who rents his room to foreigners, or someone who repairs say the classic car of a taxi driver).

    However what was so striking to me was, that even though the people seemed generally happy, except the occassional criticism of what the government is doing wrong, I felt that Cuba could do much better. Because I noticed that a lot of the measures they did was aimed at keeping an equal society at the cost of increasing the living standard. For example one such measure in the past was that people could not sent their relatives in Cuba money from abroad. Come on, this is free money for Cuba, and they didnt want it. (of course some of this money could end up financing activities against the government like in the past, but still. You get my point).

    Another measure that bothered me was that even though people can easily open 1 man businesses and are encouraged by Cuban government to do so, they have serious limits on how many people they can employ. I understand that this is again to curb a growing inequality between company owners and their workers, but after living in China and comparing it to Cuba, and comparing the living standard of an average Cuban and Chinese, I start getting the feeling that I was wrong before when I felt that Cuba had a better economic system than China. Now I start thinking that actually China has the better one.

    Maybe my approach to socialism was too dogmatic. What do you think?
    Everyone has a different definition about socialism.
    But I think the ultimate goal of socialism is NOT for everyone to be equal at the cost of everyone being poor.
    The goal of socialism is to guarantee a decent living standard for everyone.
    Do you agree?

    Just think about it. Since the 60s, for a very long time Cuba was much better of than China, but China is growing at an unprecedented growth for decades and has surpassed many countries including Cuba.
    China's official policy is such that before they provide all the social welfare they believe every Chinese deserves, they have to increase the economic capabilities for it to become sustainable.
    Somehow I feel I start to understand what they meant by it, and I had to visit both China and Cuba to understand.

    What are your feelings about it?
    What do you think? Which country has the better socialism? If it can even be called that.
  2. #2
    Join Date Mar 2008
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    Wow -- thanks for the recounting and the whole 'social experiment' itself. May I ask how long you stayed in each country?

    China is finally benefitting from being the 'sweatshop to the world' for decades now, so it certainly has more than a foot planted in the global capitalist economy, whereas Cuba seems far more insular by comparison. (Not that I've been to either country.)

    Have you considered doing a longer treatment of your experiences? Your writing here is concise and readable, but I'm sure you probably have a lot more content that's unused, for a longer work.
  3. #3
    Join Date Apr 2008
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    Wow -- thanks for the recounting and the whole 'social experiment' itself. May I ask how long you stayed in each country?

    China is finally benefitting from being the 'sweatshop to the world' for decades now, so it certainly has more than a foot planted in the global capitalist economy, whereas Cuba seems far more insular by comparison. (Not that I've been to either country.)

    Have you considered doing a longer treatment of your experiences? Your writing here is concise and readable, but I'm sure you probably have a lot more content that's unused, for a longer work.
    1 year in China, only half a month in Cuba, but I talked to regular Cubans about the services provided by the government, the prices, whats free and what is not, and what challenges they face in everyday life. So I did get more insight than regular tourists. Unfortunately, my financial situation doesn't allow me to stay in Cuba longer, because in Cuba there is a double economy that forces tourists to pay higher prices for lodging for example. There are also 2 currencies and even though for skilled tourists it's possible to buy goods and services in national currency, many things are excluded, such as living space, since tourists are not allowed to rent cheap rooms that are rented to local Cubans.

    What do you mean by a longer work? An article?
  4. #4
    Join Date Mar 2008
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    1 year in China, only half a month in Cuba, but I talked to regular Cubans about the services provided by the government, the prices, whats free and what is not, and what challenges they face in everyday life. So I did get more insight than regular tourists. Unfortunately, my financial situation doesn't allow me to stay in Cuba longer, because in Cuba there is a double economy that forces tourists to pay higher prices for lodging for example. There are also 2 currencies and even though for skilled tourists it's possible to buy goods and services in national currency, many things are excluded, such as living space, since tourists are not allowed to rent cheap rooms that are rented to local Cubans.

    What do you mean by a longer work? An article?

    Well, it's up to you, of course -- it sounds like you functioned basically as a regular journalist, so maybe you have unedited notes.... (etc.)

    Thanks again.
  5. #5
    Join Date Apr 2008
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    No, it was completely different.

    I functioned more like a tourist. I have no skills in journalism. Never published an article in my life.

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