Chinese capitalism, US socialism

When I first visited China in 1990 I was surprised at how capitalistic it was. Somehow I’d always thought of China as a communist country but especially in the southern provinces near Hong Kong I experienced some of the most capitalistic attitudes and practices I’ve seen anywhere. Even to a dyed in the wool capitalist like myself the brash materialism and focus on money was a bit nauseating.
As I wrote in (In health care, the rich and powerful aren’t really insulated):

Overall, the rich and powerful are highly constrained in their ability to get exceptional service and quality in health care compared to other spheres in their lives.

Of course there are differences, but they are nowhere near as stark as in sectors like housing or travel.

In China it’s a different story, according to yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (Hospital Caters to China’s Wealthy and Poor):

At the TEDA International Cardiovascular Hospital just outside Beijing, patients can choose from six levels of service.

At the lowest end, for about $6.70 a night, patients must share a small room with others. The biggest suite at the hospital, on the other hand, costs about $3,200 a night and occupies half the floor of a building. It offers satellite television, an indoor garden, a conference room, two bedrooms, a massage chair and a private gym.

“It’s just like an airplane,” says Liu Xiaocheng, the hospital’s president. “In the front of the plane, they have the first class. In the middle, business class. At the end they have the economy class. But they’re all going to the same destination. It’s the market!”

The article focused on the differences in amenities (essentially the hotel aspects of the hospital). The article implies that the level of medical care  is the same for everyone  –mentioning, for example, free care given to orphans to build goodwill with the government.  To some extent that’s the situation that prevails in certain US hospitals –VIP suites for extra charge, but  the same medical care for all (mostly).

It would have been interesting if the reporters probed more on this point.  I’d be interested to know how many levels of medical care are being provided and how the hospital chooses what resources to commit to those in the lower service tiers. I wonder whether Liu’s statement about everyone “going to the same destination” is a fair metaphor.

January 5, 2007

3 thoughts on “Chinese capitalism, US socialism”

  1. I just returned from China and had the opportunity to visit the TEDA hospital and meet with Dr. Liu. It is, in fact, the case that the medical care is exactly the same for rich and poor patients – I asked this repeatedly. We toured the hospital, and the rooms where indigent patients are cared for are very nice, modern 2-patient rooms (not large wards)that look much like a modern US hospital. The highest level of service, however, is something else entirely! It covers the entire top floor of the hospital wing, has two full bedrooms, a full formal business conference room, an office, a gym, an indoor garden room (tranquil!), an outdoor rooftop terrace, a kitchen – you get the picture. Costs $3200 USD per day. When I have my heart attack, that’s where I wanna be! Dr. Liu is an amazing man – full of energy and passion for delivering health care. They’ve got a great program that is serving orphan children, which he’s rightfully proud of. An incredible place!

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