Reports a friend whose son has spent a lot of time in China:
China is trending towards more freedom and the US is trending towards authoritarianism, so any comparison just chronicles where we are at the moment, and not where we're obviously going to be ten years from now.
I can say this based on my conversations with my son: For most people that would fall into a comparable social class, China is nowhere near as authoritarian as the US, and where authority is exercised it appears to be with more restraint. There is no TSA at Chinese airports. My son has entered the country when the customs and immigration checks were simply closed (because it was outside normal working hours) and walked off the plane and into Beijing.
On the surface, there are a lot of "rules" in China, but no one pays any attention and the authorities don't enforce them. My son never had any problems finding what he wanted on the internet, was never stopped or hassled by the authorities, and never had any official interference in anything he did there. Their legal system is not as harsh and punitive as ours is...at least judging by the anecdotes I've heard from my son.
Yes, there are lots of problems there...especially among the lower socio-economic class, and things are very different than in the US, but he loves it there.