Bad as it is, however, as Chinese health-care reformers looked for ways to repair their system in recent years, they glanced at the American status quo and recoiled. “The United States,” as one typically bewildered piece in the Chinese press put it, “is the strongest of the developed countries, but its record on health care is, in fact, extremely bad.” China has long peered over at the United States with a deep, if grudging, respect for American institutions. But, over the winter, as Chinese observers watched the prospects for American health-care reform begin to crumble, they seemed to regard it as another bleak measure of a superpower past its prime. It was time to look to Europe for ideas and to “give up on America as a teacher.”
On Monday, China awoke to discover that the U.S. had found the will to provide medical coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans. The U.S. and China don’t see eye-to-eye on much these days, but, for a brief moment, China seemed to glimpse the old teacher again.