Thirty Years Later

From my husband, a guest blog today:

 

When I travel on business, it’s hard on everyone.  I just flew back from a trip to China in a coach seat wedged between two very outsized men who not only snored loudly during the 14 hour flight, but had an annoying habit of invading my “personal space” with their various body parts.  Even a strong dose of my favorite sleeping med, Ambien, failed to blot out the annoyance.

 

When I return after such an experience, I quickly realize how much of a hardship my travel has also been for my wife, Miranda.  In addition to managing her oncology practice, she has to take care of the dogs, the sick cat, the horse, various contractors remodeling our house and fix the things which increasing break around our old home.  So, in recognition of Miranda’s hardship, I decided to give her a night off from writing her blog by describing a truly remarkable trip to China.

 

This was not my first visit.  When I was a young doctor, I toured China as part of a delegation of pulmonary specialists interested in learning more about Chinese respiratory care.  We visited a number of large cities and their medical schools.  We saw lots of air pollution and very little in the way of modern medical care.  Back in the 1980’s China was very much a developing nation, with many of the problems of a developed country (pollution, urban poverty, traffic jams, etc.).

 

Thirty years later China has emerged as a full fledge developed country, but still has the same developed country problems, particularly the air pollution and population crowding.   But so much else has changed!   The cities I visited were modern, clean, orderly and prosperous.  I saw many more BMW’s on the roads around Beijing than you see in Southern California.  The scale is hard to comprehend.  I visited Guangzhou, which is a city of 24 million. The largest city I bet you’ve never heard of One night my host invited me for a drink at the bar of the Four Seasons Hotel.  It was on the 99th floor with distant views across the South China Sea to Hong Kong.   My vertigo notwithstanding, it was quite an experience.

 

But what most impressed me was my interaction with healthcare and business professionals.  These 40-something people were really bullish on China.  They didn’t complain about the ruling Communist Party, but rather indicated how government was a prime factor in the growth of business and providing a better standard of living for everyone.  For instance, 95% of Chinese citizens now receive healthcare under a government sponsored national program.  

 

If you are a 40-something professional in China you are shooting for the stars.   You have never experienced an economic downturn and have only experienced continued economic growth and prosperity.  A far cry from the China I saw 30 years ago, and a far cry from America circa 2013.     If it can be said that the global economy is a competition, then one might conclude that the Chinese are winning or have already won.  We Americans just don’t know it yet.