My wife and I have had many discussions about the relative freedoms that we experience in our respective countries. She has more experience in the US than I have in China, but I have a pretty good flavor of what it's like in China.
Now, there are some basic differences in our laws due to our "Bill of Rights" which the Chinese do not have, but many of our so called "rights" have been eroded and I believe we have moved much closer to a totalitarian country while China has moved to increase individual freedoms.
Here's a quote that summarizes my observations:
"But today's China is, in some respects, less socialistic than much of Western Europe, with a moth-eaten social safety net and a wild free-market economy. Students in almost any urban Chinese school can look out their classroom windows and see just about everything but socialism being constructed: high-rise office buildings, shopping malls, movie theaters, luxury apartment buildings, fast-food restaurants, hotels, factories — the whole capitalist panorama."
There are many aspects of Chinese life that seem more libertarian than our society:
- There is no guaranteed social security - no work - no retirement benefits
- Health care is cheap and fast. No weeks or months waiting to see a doctor. I dread the move to European health care here
- Although you cannot own land yet, you have much less interference from the government. My wife is still angry with a local Zoning Board denying our petition to build a house on our property and the eminent domain ruling from the Supreme Court take away a lot of our property rights
- Starting a business in China seems much less troublesome than putting up with Environmental impact statements and other regulations here
- I never have seen a traffic law enforced in China and they don't ban talking on your cell phone
- The Chinese are not banning me from eating trans-fats nor regulating where I can smoke (I don't smoke but dislike the regulations)
- Our tax code so mystified my accountant-trained wife as to be unimaginable. This code is truly one of the most suppressive regulations in the world
Now China does regulate speech more than us (my wife had not ever heard of Tiananmen Square). But our society is moving to take away our free speech as well. McCain-Feingold was an attempt to stop criticism of Congress, the debate over the Fairness Doctrine is an attempt to silence talk radio and the worst is the creeping culture of political correctness. I have a subordinate that was fired for posting an article from the newspaper that simple reported election results on gay marriage amendments. If it's not PC, you better not discuss it at work.
When I first met my wife I was quite critical of the Chinese government, but now I am convinced that we are in a glass house of our own as far as liberty goes.