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Jul 22

Chinese extremely optimistic about nation

Written by Buxi on Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008 at 6:16 pm
Filed under:-mini-posts, News | Tags:, ,
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More released from Pew Global Attitudes survey.  From the IHT/NYTimes: “Eighty-six percent of the Chinese surveyed said they were content with the country’s direction, up from 48 percent in 2002 and a full 25 percentage points higher than the next highest country, Australia. And 82 percent of Chinese were satisfied with their national economy, up from 52 percent.”


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24 Responses to “Chinese extremely optimistic about nation”

  1. Buxi Says:

    There are a number of interesting statistics from that survey. I’ll just use the IHT article because its convenient:

    – By comparison, only 23 percent of Americans surveyed said they were satisfied with the country’s direction and only 20 percent said the U.S. economy was good.

    – Leading concerns:
    1) rising prices (96%),
    2) gap between rich poor (89%),
    3) corrupt officials (78%),
    4) air pollution (74%),
    5) unemployment (68%),
    6) water pollution (66%).

    – Sixty-five percent of the Chinese said the government was doing a good job on the issues most important to them, though support was somewhat less in the western and central provinces, which have not enjoyed the rapid growth of eastern regions.

    – Thirty-four percent of those surveyed, up from 25 percent in 2006, said people in China were paying too much attention to the Games. That feeling was even stronger in Beijing, shared by nearly half of residents in the capital.

  2. Netizen Says:

    Those are realistic numbers reflecting well of the situation in China as I feel. There are warning signs as well on prices, gap between rich and poor, corruptions.

    I feel economic leadership has been hesitant and ineffective in the few years. More decisive actions are required in tackling these problems.

  3. deltaeco Says:

    How much optimism is due to fast economic growth during the last years?

    How will it change in case of economic downturn, or a significant reduction i growth.

    And how will the country react?

  4. Wahaha Says:

    @deltaeco,

    This is serious concern that Chinese government should put on their agenda. Economic downturn is inevitable, sooner or later. Big change of sociel structure usualy happens from over-optimism to disappointment. That will be the biggest test for the one-party system in China now. If CCP wants to keep their dominace political position, they better do something about the social problems and the credibility of government, otherwise the “disappointment” will very likely end their dominacy.

  5. Dana Says:

    @deltaeco

    The thing about China when compared to let’s say Japan, who hit a wall back in the eighties, is that it has a population that give it rather enormous potential for growth and development. Everything is dictated by market, and if such a huge market can be handled well, then I don’t think China will hit economic downturn like Japan anytime.

  6. vadaga Says:

    Re: comment 4 above: the gini coefficient of China is still on the rise which isn’t a good indicator for where things are headed.

    That being said, I just read a good blog post here analyzing China’s gini coefficient statistics, which made me slightly more optimistic: http://twofish.wordpress.com/2007/02/13/the-problem-with-china-gini-coefficient-statistics/

    Re: “This is serious concern that Chinese government should put on their agenda”

    Addressing the issue of income inequality is -definitely- on the agenda for the central government.

    While I don’t expect the government to go around blatantly repossessing people’s Ferraris and villas, I trust them to act in their self-interest to prevent people who are poor from taking to the streets.

  7. Wahaha Says:

    vadaga,

    I said on other threads, most protests in China were cuz of land acquisitions, like in Weng’an. I also read an article that the situation in GuangZhou has been much better recently, as most necessary infrastructure have been completed. I think this wont be huge problem in about 15 years.

    The problem is the credibility of the government, disappoint makes people want change, and that will be the time people want something new, maybe they want new political system.

  8. Nimrod Says:

    vadaga wrote:

    While I don’t expect the government to go around blatantly repossessing people’s Ferraris and villas, I trust them to act in their self-interest to prevent people who are poor from taking to the streets.

    +++++
    Actually, people having Ferraris and villas don’t matter and Gini coefficients don’t matter, as long as some peasant believes he/she or his/her child can, through hard work and some luck, conceivably get a Ferrari and a villa, too. In the past decade and a half, this has been possible, because the magnitude of changes has been that great and the outlook going forward is no less diminished. That’s fundamentally why people are optimistic, and as long as they are, the political situation is under control.

    Now, China has more than doubled its GDP since the turn of the century. Certain productivity forces have been permanently unleashed. Even with an incredible downturn that results in double digit negative growth for several years (pretty much the Armageddon scenario), that will only take us back to what … year 2000? Said peasants have been through much worse in recent memory.

  9. vadaga Says:

    @Nimrod

    As you may or may not know, generally a gini coefficient above 0.4 is considered to be dangerous to social stability… in 2007 China’s was already close to 0.5…
    (below are a couple of articles talking about the issue)
    http://english.people.com.cn/200703/04/eng20070304_354031.html
    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2007-10/15/content_6728542.htm

  10. deltaeco Says:

    @Nimrod
    “Even with an incredible downturn that results in double digit negative growth for several years (pretty much the Armageddon scenario), that will only take us back to what … year 2000? Said peasants have been through much worse in recent memory.”

    For peasants it might not be so terrible. But for the new middle/upper classes definitively yes.

  11. vadaga Says:

    further to my post #9 above, according to the report 89% of respondents to the survey identified the rich-poor gap as a major problem in China…

    The actual report (link posted in original post) is worth reading…

  12. Nimrod Says:

    deltaeco wrote:

    For peasants it might not be so terrible. But for the new middle/upper classes definitively yes.
    +++++

    And peasants are still the majority in China, not to mention the most likely ones to stir up trouble. The middle/upper class? Whatever they seek will be a peaceful outlet and will only help China to develop politically.

    Yes, the rich-poor problem is a canonical problem so everybody identifies it. But I just don’t think it’s a huge problem as the numbers seem to indicate. It is a huge problem if you assume a static society with such disparities, because it implies rigid class boundaries. But in China, that’s not the case: the disparities are part of the dynamic disequilibrium of the growth process, because one part of the country was to “get rich” first. So it was a forseen and by-design “problem” if anything. Imagine two curves growing exponentially, at the same rate; the fact that they are shifted in time by a little bit makes for a huge and growing gap. It’s an artifact. But yes this “problem” needs to be solved eventually; actually it will “solve” itself when growth reaches an equilibrium.

  13. Buxi Says:

    I was just reading the Pew report again, and you know what strikes me:

    # Television continues to be the primary source for national and international news for most Chinese (96% say it is one of their top two sources). Newspapers are a distant second (56%), and as in much of the world, readership is on the decline.
    # A small but growing number of Chinese are going online for news (13% name it as one of their top two sources), especially people with a college education and those under age 30.

    You know.. I hate to say this, but this tells me how much time we’re wasting trying to better understand China by reading the Chinese internet. 🙂

    The truth is, so far at least, it represents only a snapshot into a tiny segment of Chinese society…

  14. Buxi Says:

    The Wall Street Journal has an article on the same story today. Subscription is unfortunately required; I’ll quote the most interesting parts:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121675598428074485.html?mod=googlenews_wsj&apl=y&r=144759

    BEIJING — Urban Chinese are overwhelmingly happy with their country’s economic and political progress — and register higher levels of “national contentment” than those of other nations, according to a large-scale international public-opinion survey by the Pew Research Center.


    This high level of Chinese satisfaction is at the heart of a serious perception gap between the way China is viewed abroad and the way it is seen by its own citizens. Many Chinese view their country as more prosperous and freer than at any time in their lives. Many Westerners focus instead on continuing human-rights abuses and social injustice, comparing China to the yardsticks of their own societies.


    Prisci Han, a 26-year-old auto industry analyst who lives in Beijing, says she used to think about leaving China for the West, thinking, among other things, that she might get better medical care. But she has ditched that notion. “The chance of being successful in China is bigger than in any other country,” she says.

    China’s optimism — unrivaled among the surveyed countries — has come on the back of several consecutive years of double-digit expansion in gross domestic product, a broad measure of economic growth. Prosperity has lifted millions of its citizens out of poverty and into the middle classes. Though there are signs of a slowdown, the national economy still grew 10.4% in the first half of 2008 from the year-earlier period, against a grim economic outlook for many other countries.

    The WSJ emphasizes that the survey was based mostly on responses from urban dwellers. I personally think that support levels from rural China might be even higher than urban areas, especially in terms of government support + optimism.

    But the “problems” that rural dwellers see as most important is probably very different from urban China.

  15. Nimrod Says:

    Buxi wrote:

    You know.. I hate to say this, but this tells me how much time we’re wasting trying to better understand China by reading the Chinese internet.

    The truth is, so far at least, it represents only a snapshot into a tiny segment of Chinese society…

    +++++
    But it’s a snapshot of the future, the people who will take over the driver’s seat within the next twenty years.

  16. Buxi Says:

    @Nimrod,

    But it’s a snapshot of the future, the people who will take over the driver’s seat within the next twenty years.

    That’s true, a very important point.

    Sometimes the stuff I read makes me shake my head and say “I hope not”… but that’s really not fair or the right attitude. I just hope that as China becomes a more open society with more room for free speech, the *quality* of the debate also increases.

  17. kui Says:

    Chinese are optimistic because of what they heve experienced over the last 20 years. Westerners do not really know China’s changes because of their main stream media’s daily negtive report about the country.

  18. Smith Says:

    Chinese happy about China… but not so much about their own life.
    more details here: http://shanghaiist.com/2008/07/23/chinas_going_strong_me_not_so_much.php

  19. opersai Says:

    I think the Chinese are more content and optimistic than people in any other country could be explained by the drastic improvement in their life span. There is a clear comparison, of “what we had” to “what we have now”, and thus they have great appreciation for their present condition. The Chinese hold their current condition very preciously because of this too. In comparison, especially to people from developed countries, where people often see discontent and shortcomes, rather than what they already hold. By writing these, I do not mean to lash on these people, it is but human nature. It’s my an explanation to this drastic different in the optimism despite the fact there are far better developed country in the world than China.

  20. JD Says:

    Looks evident that the high headline number reflects a temporary reaction to Tibet and the torch relay. Consider the timing of the poll, the relation to the past number, and comparison to other countries. Hyping the headline number now means next year’s story will be a search for answers to explain its fall. Overall, lots of interesting information, however.

  21. Qrs Says:

    My experiences in China and by keeping in contact with (Chinese) friends in Beijing is that they are indeed happy that China is strong and growing. No question about that, and I think that for most Chinese, the symbolic importance of the Olympics is that it will mark China’s re-entry onto the global stage in a position of prominence and importance that marks a complete reversal from the era of the Opium Wars and Uequal Treaties. China has overcome these indignities and I stand with all Chinese in applauding this historic change. Add to that a booming economy, and there’s much to be happy about. China should be- and is– proud of all this.

    The poll also confirms what I know about the feelings about unequal development between city and countryside and the income gap between rich and poor. My friends all agree with this, and actually give Hu Jintao cradit for being perceptive/responsive enough to emphasize development in gas-rich (but otherwise poor) areas of western China such as Xinjiang and Qinghai. The current political line/movement is the “Harmonious Society” promoted by Hu and aimed at “harmonizing the contradictions (i.e. elimitating the disparities) between city and country, rich and poor. So it’s understandable that the poll number would reflect this concern. I strongly disagree with BXBQ that one can generalize that if people are happy in the city, they must feel similarly in the countryside. Very dangerous generalization.

    I really encourage people to look at the original survey and judge for themselves as to what is good and bad/ positive and negative in the numbers. One thing that caught my eye immediately is the series of questions and widespread concern people in China feel about the loss of traditional culture– and especially values.

    Again, my friends are caught up in the reaction to this, known as the “National Studies Trend” 国学热 that is mentioned at the end of this article about the 愤青 ‘fen qing’ or ‘angry youth’.
    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/07/28/080728fa_fact_osnos/?printable=true
    So they watch Professor Yu Dan talk about the “Analects of Confucius” and watch episodes of CCTV’s “Lecture Room” (百家讲坛) where people like Wuhan U. prof. Yi Zhongtian evaluate the historicity of “The Three Kingdoms” in fact and in literature. (I’ve got the book, and Yu Dan’s DVD last time I was in Beijing, but had to use BT to get the video– great great, stuff and worth the time and trouble to get it!)

    Anyway, they debate what it means to be Chinese and search through the old Classics by Confucius, Mencius, and other ancients, and dust off works by or about Zeng Guofang, Lin Zexu and even people such as Fu Sinian. Anything goes in this search for ‘Chineseness’, Chinese identity, and especially Chinese strength and unique character.

    Do the authors of this blog belong to either of these ‘e-lite’ categories of youth?

    One other issue sands out that friends tend to mention– corruption. The Pew poll article states:

    “Complaints about corruption are also widely prevalent, with 78% citing corruption among officials and 61% citing corruption among business leaders. Six-in-ten also rate crime as a big problem. Concerns about both corruption and crime are widespread among all segments of China’s population.”

    So yet again, the sentiment about official corruption is widely acknowledged, and yet there is still not official, regular, systematized way for people to report, uncover, or otherwise put an end to it. It’s my belief that Hu Jintao’s “Harmonious Society” and “Scientific Development” campaigns are as much aimed at assuaging public opinion on official corruption and inequality as they are about actually eliminating the problems. To the extent that these campaigns are sincere efforts at ridding the Party of corruption, I applaud them. I also tip my hat to Hu Jintao for his political savvy in initiating them in the first place.

    But to the extent that they are just empty words that lack meaning, definition, any scientific quality, and are just an elaborate PR exercise aimed at deceiving, rather than serving the people, I denounce them. Will the Party find a way to subject itself to meaningful, systematic oversight in order to rid itself of corruption and for the benefit of the people? It remains to be seen. 为人民服务吧!

    Finally, this McClatchy article http://www.mcclatchydc.com/homepage/v-print/story/45107.html points out:

    “The survey shows a large discrepancy between how Chinese think the world sees them and how many foreigners view their nation. Seventy-seven percent of Chinese think that foreigners generally like China, a rise from earlier Pew surveys. In fact, majorities in only seven of 23 countries in the global surveys that Pew conducts have positive opinions of China, and the trend is for favorability ratings to be declining.”

    How could the Chinese be so mistaken on such a fundamental point? Are the Chinese people simply too self-absorbed to care what the world thinks of China? Or, is the state-run media in China unwilling or incapable of presenting an accurate picture of how the world sees China and how China should relate to the rest of the world? I leave that for the well-informed readers of this blog to decide for themselves.

  22. wuming Says:

    @QRs

    Let me take a crack at the last issue you raised which I think there is a rather simple answer. Namely, the perception gap of perceptions is really just the gap between the perceptions. More plainly, because these Chinese surveyed are generally happy about their lives and their country, they can’t conceive that why foreigners could view them otherwise.

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