Individual Disaster Preparedness or “Prepping” in China vs. the West


In a previous article, we have covered large-scale disaster preparedness/management from the perspective of China as well as Western nations and have tried to explain that different countries have different let’s call them aggressive action tolerance thresholds. As such, it would be difficult to assume that action as drastic as in Wuhan could be taken in Belgium for example… again, it varies on a country to country basis.

Today, let us move on to a granular level and try to analyze disaster preparedness from the perspective of the average individual. Colloquially, the term “prepping” is also oftentimes used and believe it or not, prepping has represented a niche for a very long time, a niche which revolves around catering to the needs of ultra-prudent individuals who are worried about a wide range of scenarios: some “prep” because they are afraid of scenarios involving a financial system collapse, others do it because they are worried about local and/or global natural disasters and the list of concerns could continue indefinitely… geopolitical issues including hot wars, solar flares, epidemics (especially in light of 2020’s events) and so on.

Just like when it comes to country-level preparedness, strategies vary wildly across countries as well as individuals. For example, over in the United States, prepping has a very heavy gun-oriented component in light of the 2nd Amendment, whereas in countries where private gun ownership is not allowed, the component in question is marginal at best. For example, let’s just say that the average Chinese individuals does not exactly intend on purchasing a dozen shotguns so as to protect himself.

The same way, there is a historical dimension that needs to be kept in mind. A German citizen who was educated by grandparents who went through hyperinflation to the tune of one dollar going from being worth $4.2 marks to being worth $4.2 trillion marks is most likely more concerned about potential (hyper)inflationary scenarios, compared to a US citizen who was perhaps educated by grandparents who went through the ultra-deflationary Great Depression. In China, of course, parents and grandparents who went through the many difficulties associated with the Mao Zedong regime ended up transferring at least some of their fears to their children and the list could go on and on.

Let us not forget the political dimension either. For example, in socialist and strongly unionized nations such as France, CEOs of various companies were essentially kidnapped by disgruntled employees in the aftermath of the Great Recession. In the US, despair brought about (short-lived) political movements such as the Occupy Wall Street one and the list could go on and on. As such, the prepping strategy of the average citizen also takes into account political ramifications and potential volatility, with the many consequences that can result (for example, a tidal wave of populism which followed the sovereign debt implications of the Great Recession in the so-called PIIGS nations: Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain).

Finally, it is paramount to also bring the culture dimension to the attention of our readers, especially the civic culture sub-category. One need only compare case studies involving natural calamities in Japan as opposed to let’s say the United States and it will become clear that the reaction of the average citizen was remarkably different. Over in Japan, “discipline” was the operative word and even when panic levels are high, Japanese citizens for the most part bought supplies in an orderly manner rather than resorting to hoarding, a topic covered through a dedicated article which can be accessed by clicking HERE.

In the United States, on the other hand, the prevailing attitude tends to be a considerably more selfish one, with approaches ranging from examples such as hoarding by law-abiding citizens to downright looting in other cases. Again, the cultural dimension should not be underestimated. For the most part, the status quo tends to revolve around civil obedience in China at this point in time (even if it was achieved via fear in China as opposed to education in Japan, but that is a topic for another article) and as such, the reaction of the average citizen is closer to what we can expect in Japan rather than in the United States.

As can be seen, individual preparedness strategies can vary wildly.

Why are they important?

Simply because everything tends to be so interconnected these days that the prepping strategies of let’s say Chinese citizens risk affecting people in the United States. As an example, in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis in China, countries such as the United States found themselves facing an amazingly strong demand for masks, masks which were largely imported from China. Even if the US would have managed to ramp up domestic production, guess where most of the materials required come from? As such, it should come as no surprise that, for example, mass hoarding of masks by Chinese citizens risks affecting people on other continents as well, in this case US citizens.

The main message we are trying to get across through this article is that when analyzing calamities in general, employing an analytical framework which revolves around a meaningful understanding of the ultra-complex economic system we currently have is essential. A superficial understanding of the various mechanisms involved will yield mediocre results at best and possibly even disastrous ones. As such, being thorough is not just recommended but downright vital. If you are in need of assistance with respect to putting together a robust risk assessment and mitigation strategy for your own needs or for the needs of your organization, the team of experts is at your disposal and only a message away. While we specialize in China as a jurisdiction, feel free to pick our brains with respect to pretty much any topic you believe we can be of assistance with.