I have spent significant time in both Japan and China. When people say that China will progress just like Japan, I find it startling. The two cultures are not even remotely close to each other. This NYT article Testing Is Key to Beating Coronavirus, Right? Japan Has Other Ideas highlights some of the unique characteristics of Japan. While it does not specifically outline the differences between Japan and China, if you have lived in China and think about it, some Japanese traits are simply mind boggling.
There is a certain distance between people in Japan, even in a crowded place. Japanese bow instead of shake hands. Face mask wearing is extremely common for even the slightest sniffle or cold. Hand washing is really part of the culture, as is cleanliness.
Also very unique to Japan is to do the right thing for society. People go out of their way to protect others. It is not unique for a restaurant to close and stay closed, if he thought there would be any chance that the virus at his restaurant could hurt his customers. There is a civic pride and a personal shame felt if someone did something to hurt others. Instead, the restaurant owner would rather not open and provide take out instead. This is extremely Japanese.
In virus prevention, the Japanese government only has to do part of the work, while Japanese citizens will follow through with a vast majority of the compliance. Japanese people do trust their government to do the right thing for society.
If there was a slim chance that a Japanese person could infect others, that person would certainly stay home, for the good of the rest of society. This is without question. A person’s name, the company they work for, has a reputation to uphold, and this reputation cannot be so rashly thrown away by short-term gains. There would be no milk scandal in Japan, because Japanese companies would never risk their good company name and reputation, as well as the shame put on all its employees and their families, for this to happen. Quality speaks for your company and for all the employees.
I do mention company first and family second. These are important differences in the Japanese hierarchy. Families acknowledge that they are second to the company, because without the company the family will have no income and starve.
China is completely different. If there is a possibility for profit and the Chinese company feels they can get away without being caught, many companies will try it. There have been numerous scandals within and without China that show this. The tainted milk scandal, where milk companies added the plastic melamine in order to fool quality tests in its protein level. There is the vaccine scandal, where a vaccine company falsified documents and gave a huge number of toddlers vaccines that may not have been preventative. The list goes on.
Externally foreign buyers are no less susceptible at getting cheated. The pandemic has shown many countries such as Canada, Norway, the US, that China can ship them fake and faulty PPE and masks. The brand reputation is simply not widespread in China, and can be sacrificed for a short-term profit.
Still, after punitive measures against the Chinese company, life goes on. The government again gives the company approval to continue production, politicians and officials are paid off and life goes on.
The Chinese people, however, know this and do not trust domestic manufacturers. They have good reason.
Cultures differ. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. For health related issues I feel safer in Japan than I do in China.