From this discussion. The speaker is Noriel Roubini, the NYU economics professor:
In U.S. the total consumption’s about $9.5 trillion. Take the entire consumption of 1 billion Chinese, it’s about $1 trillion.
The average American thinks: We’re rich, they’re poor. It’s more complicated than that. The Chinese, in hundreds of ways, do more with less. They pay less for the same quality of life. Here are some examples:
1. The lights on the stairs to my Beijing apartment are sound-activated. Works well, saves electricity. In Berkeley I pay $4/month to light the stairs to my apartment and why should my landlady install sound- or motion-activated lighting?
2. The water-heating system in my apartment is flash heating, that is, just-in-time heating. It works just as well as an American-style water heaters and there’s no heat loss when you aren’t using it.
3. My washing machine doesn’t use heated water. Incoming water is heated to room temperature by a set of baffles.
4. The doors to campus cafeterias are a set of hanging plastic strips. It gets cold in Beijing in the winter. When someone enters there is much less heat loss than when a door is opened.
5. Bicycles are everywhere (in my part of town, the university district, at least) and are easy and safe. They are also very cheap. I could have bought a used one for $15 but instead a friend gave me hers — she takes the bus to work. While bicycles are basically transportation for people who live close to work, as students do, electric bicycles — in which China leads the world — are far more powerful and could probably replace a lot of cars if downtowns were safer for them.
6. The better you cook, the cheaper ingredients you can use and achieve the same result. The Chinese, who are great cooks, use lots of vegetables, which are cheaper than meat and of course easier on the environment.