"I grew up in America, but I go to China every year for a few weeks to visit family. In previous trips, I’d been impressed by China’s pace of development. But each year, it was always clear that despite the country’s rapid modernization, China still lagged far behind the U.S.—at least in terms of quality of life.
As of 2018, this had changed. Far from lagging behind the U.S., I felt that the reverse might even be true: as China cashes out years of economic development into discrete improvements to people’s daily lives, in some ways, life in China is starting to seem better than life in the U.S. No longer as characterized by bad pollution and visible poverty, China of the late 2010s feels clean, modern, and nice.
Coverage I’ve read in American discourse focuses on the dystopian side of the Chinese government. Examples abound: from its oppression of Uyghurs, to its outright ban of many religious groups, to its increasingly aggressive influence in American political and social life—like the Blizzard and NBA cases over the last week. But over the last five years, this discourse, though often correct, has felt increasingly disconnected from my personal experiences in China and the more fundamental problems at hand. In particular, it fails to comment on the larger, more important context: how much better life has become for many Chinese people, China’s new self-confidence, and America’s struggle with development, optimism, and sovereignty.
China is changing in a deep and visceral way, and it is changing fast , in a way that is almost incomprehensible without seeing it in person. In contrast to America’s stagnation, China’s culture, self-concept, and morale are being transformed at a rapid pace—mostly for the better."