January 12, 2014
Not without pride, the Chinese media recently reported on the number of foreigners who have made use of the new possibility of visa-free travel if staying in the mainland for less than 72 hours. Meanwhile, fellow Chinese from the mainland may visit the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau for just one week without a visa. Moreover, despite careful reforms, a so-called migrant worker within the mainland who, say, comes from Changsha in Hunan province to work in the capital Beijing does not have access to the same social benefits as a fellow Chinese country(wo)man who is originally from Beijing, as proven by his/her Hukou.
Meanwhile, Europe discusses freedom of movement, too, but on a whole different scale. As of 1 January 2014, Bulgarians and Romanians enjoy the same privileges of freedom of movement as all other EU citizens. ‘Finally’, one might say. After all, both countries have been members of the European Union since 2007. On that backdrop, the current debate that is going on in Europe, notably in the UK but also in Germany, is – to say the least – surprising: political parties, notably the Bavaria-based party CSU, sister-party of the governing CDU, trigger fears among the EU/ German citizens of ‘waves’ of Bulgarian and Romanian citizens coming to Germany now, not to work but to unjustly or even illegally exploit the German social security system.
What I find striking about the debate are exactly the different scales: China is one country and certainly a very patriotic one. But it does not treat its citizens equally when it comes to basic things such as social welfare or freedom of movement. Meanwhile, only Eurotopianists would argue that the European Union constitutes one country. However, the EU is certainly more integrated compared to China when it comes to basic things such as freedom of movement and access to social welfare.
To conclude, if China is “one country, two systems”, Europe should probably be entitled “many countries, one system” – an achievement, Europeans can be proud of and which should not be compromised.
All best/ 祝好，