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皮尤研究中心:Upbeat Chinese Public May Not Be Primed for a Jasmine Revolution

11/03/2011|Pew Research Center
The democratic uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere have led to speculation that a wave of pro-democracy movements could spread as far as China. The government in Beijing, for its part, has acted swiftly to quash the possibility of anti-government protests inspired by the Middle East’s popular revolts. How much China’s leadership has to worry about a mass uprising is an open question, as judging the Chinese appetite for democracy is not easy. Unlike in the Arab world, where opinion surveys over the years have demonstrated public support for such basic democratic rights as free elections and freedom of speech, in China it is not possible to ask citizens about their views on democracy. The government won’t allow it. However, on another critical dimension in gauging public enthusiasm for political change — personal and economic satisfaction — surveys do allow for comparisons between Chinese attitudes and those in Arab countries, such as Egypt. Here, the polling suggests China may not be ripe for the kind of uprisings seen throughout the Middle East.

Chinese Very Happy With Course of Nation

Unlike the Egyptian public in recent years, the Chinese public has been overwhelmingly content with the direction in which their country is headed. In a spring 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, 87% of Chinese said they were satisfied with the way things were going in their country.1 Just 28% of Egyptians said the same, compared with 69% who were dissatisfied with their country’s direction. In both countries these findings were closely linked to views on the economy: 91% of Chinese characterized their country’s economic situation as good, compared with only 20% of Egyptians who said the same. The number of Egyptians describing their country’s economic situation as good fell by more than half, from 53% in 2007.
The Chinese were equally enthusiastic about the future of their economy. In spring 2010, nearly nine-in-ten (87%) expected the economic situation in China to improve over the next 12 months. This upbeat forecast echoed optimism found in earlier surveys. In Egypt, just 25% thought the economic situation would improve in the coming year, compared with 35% who said it would remain the same and 38% who anticipated the economic situation would actually worsen.

Chinese Sense Personal Progress

Divergent attitudes on broad issues, such as the economy and direction of the country, point to important contrasts between the public mindset in China and Egypt. That contrast is even starker at a more personal level. In spring 2010, the Pew Global Attitudes survey asked respondents to place themselves on a “ladder of life,” where zero represents the worst possible life and 10 the best possible life. Respondents were also asked to describe where they stood five years ago and where they guessed they would stand five years in the future.
On balance, both Chinese and Egyptians rated their lives much less positively than Western Europeans or Americans. However, three times as many Chinese as Egyptians reported a high level of personal satisfaction.
And while the Egyptian and Chinese publics rated their current lives comparably, Chinese reported much more personal progress over the past five years and much more optimism looking ahead. The prevailing feeling in Egypt was one of losing ground. In fact, between 2007 and 2010, the number of Egyptians reporting a low quality of life doubled, suggesting that in the lead-up to this year’s popular revolt frustrations may have been mounting not only with respect to democratic yearnings, but in terms of personal aspirations.
By contrast, nearly two-thirds of Chinese judged their lives to be better than five years ago. This number out-stripped even the personal progress reported in the U.S. and Western Europe. Fewer than a fifth of Egyptians (18%) registered an improvement in life satisfaction, with nearly half actually reporting a decline in life quality.
The Chinese were decidedly upbeat about the future as well. In spring 2010, 74% believed their lives would be better in five years an impressive level of optimism compared with opinions in the U.S. and Western Europe. In Egypt, only 23% anticipated a higher quality of life, while 40% predicted a lower quality. In China, just 6% believed their lives would worsen over the next five years.

Sustained Optimism in China

Arguably, widespread optimism in China could inflate popular expectations, which if unmet could lead to personal or social frustration. So far, China seems to have escaped this scenario. Since 2002, a majority of Chinese have consistently predicted that they would have a better life in five years. This suggests an enduring confidence among most Chinese that their personal aspirations will be met.
It would be wrong to assume that the Chinese public is indifferent to the performance of their national or local governments. In fact, news reports indicate that a good number of Chinese care enough about official corruption and government accountability to voice their concerns online or in other forums. But the Chinese public’s overall state of mind is very distant from the pessimism that helped set the stage for massive protests in Egypt. Confident that their country is on the right path, and optimistic that their own lives will improve, the Chinese public might not be so likely to embrace a Jasmine-style revolution.

China Partner/Enemy

Is China more of a partner, more of an enemy, or neither?

Percent responding Partner (2013)

22/04/2010|Pew Research Center

Growing Concerns in China about Inequality, Corruption

Ratings for the U.S. Decline

16/10/2012|Pew Research Center


As China prepares for its once-in-a-decade change of leadership, the Chinese people believe their country faces serious and growing challenges. In particular, the side effects of rapid economic growth, including the gap between rich and poor, rising prices, pollution, and the loss of traditional culture are major concerns, and there are also increasing worries about political corruption. While the Chinese have consistently rated their national and personal economic situations positively over the last few years, they are now grappling with the concerns of a modern, increasingly wealthy society.
The Chinese public also increasingly expresses reservations about relations with the United States. Over the last two years, ratings for the U.S. and President Obama have declined significantly, and the percentage of Chinese who characterize their country’s relationship with the U.S. as one of cooperation has plummeted from 68% to 39%. Still, many Chinese embrace aspects of America’s soft power, including U.S. science and technology and American ideas about democracy.
Inflation remains the top concern of the Chinese public – six-in-ten consider rising prices very big problem. Meanwhile, half say corrupt officials are a major problem, up from 39% four years ago.
Worries about consumer protection have also increased significantly. After a number of high-profile food safety scandals in recent years, concerns about the safety of food have more than tripled since 2008.
And while China’s economy has grown at a much faster rate than most countries since the onset of the global economic downturn, concerns about economic inequality have also increased. About half now say the gap between rich and poor is a very big problem, and roughly eight-in-ten agree with the view that in China the “rich just get richer while the poor get poorer.
Moreover, the rapid changes that have transformed their society in recent years have not been welcomed by all Chinese. Most still say they like the pace of modern life, but fewer hold this view today than four years ago. Nearly six-in-ten say their traditional way of life is getting lost and even more think their way of life should be protected against foreign influence.
These are among the key findings from a survey of China conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 3,177 respondents between March 18 and April 15. The sample represents approximately 64% of the adult Chinese population.1 This poll in China is part of the broader 21-nation spring 2012 Pew Global Attitudes survey.

Despite Success, Many See Problems

While the global financial crisis has taken a serious toll in many nations over the last few years, most Chinese report continued economic progress – indeed, 70% say they are better off financially than they were five years ago. Among the 21 nations polled, Brazil is the only country where the public reports a comparable level of economic advancement. Additionally, a remarkable 92% of Chinese say their standard of living is better than their parents’ at a similar age. (For more on international economic mobility and other economic issues, see “Pervasive Gloom About the World Economy,” released July 12, 2012).
Given this economic mobility and the overall success of economic reforms since the late 1970s, it is not too surprising that free markets are popular. Roughly three-in-four Chinese agree that most people are better off in a free market economy.
However, there is a general consensus in China that the economic gains of recent years have not benefited everyone equally: 81% agree with the statement the “rich just get richer while the poor get poorer,” and 45%completely agree. Roughly half (48%) say the gap between rich and poor is a very serious problem, up from 41% four years ago (fully 87% consider it at least a moderately big problem).
And some Chinese doubt whether simply working hard is enough to guarantee success in today’s China. While 45% agree with the statement “most people can succeed if they are willing to work hard,” one-in-three disagrees. Those who are doing better economically are much more likely to see a link between effort and success – 62% of higher-income Chinese believe most people can be successful if they work hard, compared with 45% of middle- and 44% of lower-income respondents.2
In another sign that many do not see a level playing field in Chinese society, there are growing worries about corruption. Half now say corrupt officials are a very big problem, up 11 percentage points since 2008; and 32% say this about corrupt business people, also up 11 points from four years ago.
Consumer protection is another rising concern. Four years ago, just 12% rated food safety a very big problem; today, it’s 41%. The percentage expressing very serious concerns about the safety of medicine has more than tripled, from 9% in 2008 to 28% today. And more now are very worried about the quality of manufactured goods (13% in 2008; 33% now).
Increasingly, people are also anxious about having a social safety net. Since 2008, the percentage of those rating old age insurance a very big problem has more than doubled (from 13% to 28%), while the percentage who say the same about health care has jumped from 12% to 26%. The environment is also a serious concern to many. A third or more rate air (36%) and water pollution (33%) as very big problems.
In addition, many Chinese are worried about the current state and direction of their culture and traditions. Most (57%) think their way of life is getting lost and 71% want to see their way of life protected from foreign influence. While 59% still say they like the pace of modern life, this is down from 71% four years ago. Wealthier Chinese are more likely to embrace modern life; 73% of those with higher incomes say they like it, compared with just 61% of middle and 54% of lower income Chinese.

Growing Wariness of the U.S.

Over the last two years, Chinese views about their country’s relationship with the U.S. have shifted substantially. In 2010, roughly two-in-three described the U.S.-China relationship as one of cooperation; today, just 39% view it this way. Meanwhile, 26% now say the relationship is one of hostility, up from 8% in the 2010 poll.
Similarly, while 58% had a positive view of the U.S. in 2010, only 43% do so today. President Obama’s ratings have also slipped – currently, 38% express confidence that he will do the right thing in world affairs, down from 52% two years ago.
Nonetheless, many Chinese – especially younger, wealthier, well-educated, and urban Chinese – continue to embrace certain elements of American soft power. In particular, many admire the U.S. for its scientific and technological achievements.
And in a country that remains a one-party state, American-style democracy has a strong appeal. Roughly half (52%) say they like American ideas about democracy; just 29% say they dislike these ideas. About seven-in-ten Chinese in the higher-income category have a positive opinion about American democratic ideals.
Just like opinions regarding the U.S.-China relationship, views about the India-China relationship have cooled over the last two years. In 2010, 53% described relations between the two Asian powers as one of cooperation, compared with 39% now.
Views on the Japan-China relationship are, on balance, negative. Just three-in-ten Chinese say their relationship with Japan is one of cooperation; fully 41% describe it in terms of hostility.

Views of China’s Economic Power

Globally, perceptions of Chinese economic power have been on the rise since the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, and today many believe China is the world’s top economy. Across the 21 countries included in the spring 2012 Pew Global Attitudes survey, a median of 41% said China is the economic leader, while 37% named the U.S. (For more on international perceptions of China and the U.S., see “Global Opinion of Obama Slips, International Policies Faulted,” released June 13, 2012).
The Chinese, however, do not believe they have ascended to the top spot. About half (48%) say the U.S. is the world’s leading economy, while just 29% believe it is China. Americans, meanwhile, are divided: 41% think China is the top global economy, while 40% believe the U.S. remains the leader.

China Seen Overtaking U.S. as Global Superpower

U.S. Favorability Ratings Remain Positive

13/02/2011|Pew Research Center


In most regions of the world, opinion of the United States continues to be more favorable than it was in the Bush years, but U.S. image now faces a new challenge: doubts about America’s superpower status. In 15 of 22 nations, the balance of opinion is that China either will replace or already has replaced the United States as the world’s leading superpower. This view is especially widespread in Western Europe, where at least six-in-ten in France (72%), Spain (67%), Britain (65%) and Germany (61%) see China overtaking the U.S.
Majorities in Pakistan, the Palestinian territories, Mexico and China itself also foresee China supplanting the U.S. as the world’s dominant power. In most countries for which there are trends, the view that China will overtake the U.S. has increased substantially over the past two years, including by 10 or more percentage points in Spain, France, Pakistan, Britain, Jordan, Israel, Poland and Germany. Among Americans, the percentage saying that China will eventually overshadow or has already overshadowed the U.S. has increased from 33% in 2009 to 46% in 2011.
At least some of this changed view of the global balance of power may reflect the fact that the U.S. is increasingly seen as trailing China economically. This is especially the case in Western Europe, where the percentage naming China as the top economic power has increased by double digits in Spain, Germany, Britain and France since 2009.
In other parts of the globe, fewer are convinced that China is the world’s leading economic power. Majorities or pluralities in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America still name the U.S. as the world’s dominant economic power. In the Middle East, Palestinians and Israelis agree that America continues to sit atop the global economy, while in Jordan and Lebanon more see China in this role. Notably, by an almost 2-to-1 margin the Chinese still believe the U.S. is the world’s dominant economic power.
These are among the key findings from a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, conducted March 18 to May 15.1  The survey also finds that, in the U.S., France, Germany, Spain and Japan, those who see China as the world’s leading economic power believe this is a bad thing. By contrast, those who name the U.S. tend to think it is good that America is still the top global economy. In developing countries those who believe China has already overtaken the U.S. economically generally view this as a positive development. Meanwhile, in China, those who believe the U.S. is still the world’s leading economy tend to see this as a negative.
Compared with reaction to China’s economic rise, global opinion is more consistently negative when it comes to the prospect of China equaling the U.S. militarily. Besides the Chinese themselves, only in Pakistan, Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Kenya do majorities see an upside to China matching the U.S. in terms of military power. Meanwhile, the prevailing view in Japan and India is that it would not be in their country’s interest if China were to equal the U.S. militarily; majorities across Western and Eastern Europe, and in Turkey and Israel, share this view.

U.S. Image Largely Favorable

Despite the view in many countries that China either has or will surpass the U.S. as the leading superpower, opinion of America remains favorable, on balance. The median percentage offering a positive assessment of the U.S. is 60% among the 23 countries surveyed. The U.S. receives high marks in Western Europe, where at least six-in-ten in
France, Spain, Germany and Britain rate the U.S. positively. Opinion of the U.S. is also consistently favorable across Eastern Europe, as well as in Japan, Kenya, Israel, Brazil and Mexico.
As in years past, U.S. image continues to suffer among predominantly Muslim countries, with the exception of Indonesia, where a majority expresses positive views of the U.S. One-in-five or fewer in Egypt, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Pakistan and Turkey view America favorably. In Lebanon, opinion of the U.S. is split, reflecting a religious and sectarian divide; the country’s Shia community has overwhelmingly negative views of America, while Lebanese Sunnis and Christians are more positive.
Views of the U.S. in the Muslim world reflect, at least in part, opposition to the war in Afghanistan and U.S. efforts to fight terrorism. Moreover, few in predominantly Muslim countries say the U.S. takes a multilateral approach to foreign policy. Fewer than a quarter in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Pakistan and Turkey say the U.S. takes the interests of countries like theirs into account when making foreign policy decisions
In Western Europe, fewer than half in Britain (40%), France (32%) and Spain (19%) say the U.S. takes the interests of other countries into account when making foreign policy decisions. Only in Germany does a majority feel otherwise. In Eastern Europe, a third or less believe America acts multilaterally.
Interestingly, a majority of Chinese (57%) credit America with considering the interests of other nations, although last year more (76%) held this view. Elsewhere, majorities in Israel, India, Japan, Brazil and Kenya describe the U.S. as multilateral in its approach to foreign policy.
Majorities or pluralities in nearly every country surveyed say the U.S. and NATO should remove their troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible; the only exceptions are Spain, Israel, India, Japan and Kenya, where more say troops should remain in that country until the situation is stabilized than say they should be removed. However, in many parts of the world, there is strong support for the broader, American-led effort to combat terrorism. About seven-in-ten in France (71%), two-thirds in Germany, 59% in Britain and 58% in Spain back U.S. anti-terrorism efforts. Majorities in Eastern Europe also support the U.S.-led fight against terrorism, as do most in Israel and Kenya.

U.S. Viewed More Favorably Than China

Across the nations surveyed, the U.S. generally receives more favorable marks than China: the median percentage rating China favorably is 52%, eight points lower than the median percentage offering a positive assessment of the U.S.
However, the number of people expressing positive views of China has grown in a number of countries, including the four Western European countries surveyed. China’s image has also improved in Indonesia, Japan, Egypt and Poland. Opinion of China has worsened substantially in only two countries surveyed: Kenya (down 15 percentage points from last year) and Jordan (9 points lower than in 2010).
U.S. image, meanwhile, has declined in most countries for which there are trends. Compared with last year, favorable views of America are lower in Kenya (11 percentage points), Jordan (8 points), Turkey (7 points), Indonesia (5 points), Pakistan (5 points), Mexico (4 points), Poland (4 points) and Britain (4 points). However, the largest downward shift has occurred in China, where the number expressing a positive view of the U.S. has fallen 14 points – from 58% in 2010 to 44% today.
In Japan, by contrast, opinion of the U.S. has improved dramatically. A year ago, roughly two-thirds (66%) held a favorable view of America; today, more than eight-in-ten (85%) assess the U.S. favorably. This huge boost in U.S. image is attributable in part to America’s role in helping Japan respond to the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck the island nation’s northeast coast in March. A majority (57%) of Japanese say the U.S. has done a great deal to assist their country in responding to this dual disaste

Views of Obama

Assessments of President Obama track fairly closely with overall U.S. ratings. Obama is viewed most positively in Western Europe, where solid majorities say they have confidence in the U.S. president to do the right thing when it comes to world affairs. At least two-thirds in Kenya, Japan and Lithuania also express confidence in Obama, as do smaller majorities in Brazil, Indonesia and Poland.
As is the case with the overall U.S. image, Obama receives his most negative ratings among predominantly Muslim countries. In the Arab world, majorities in the Palestinian territories (84%), Jordan (68%), Egypt (64%) and Lebanon (57%) lack confidence in the president. Roughly seven-in-ten in Turkey (73%) and Pakistan (68%) say the same. Indonesians are the exception, with 62% saying they have confidence in Obama to do the right thing in world affairs.
Overall, the U.S. president continues to inspire more confidence than any of the other world leaders tested in the survey. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is next most trusted, at least in Europe and Israel. Majorities across Western Europe endorse the German leader’s handling of world affairs, as do most in Eastern Europe. In fact, in Russia and Ukraine she is more trusted than Obama; this is also the case in Israel.
Broad trust in Obama’s leadership does not mean foreign publics necessarily agree with the U.S. president’s policies. For example, in nearly every nation surveyed majorities or pluralities disapprove of Obama’s handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many also disapprove of Obama’s handling of Iran and Afghanistan, while reactions to the way he has dealt with the recent calls for political change in the Middle East are mixed.
In general, Obama receives his highest marks for his handling of global economic problems. Majorities across Western Europe, for example, endorse Obama’s approach to economic issues, with the highest approval (68%) found in Germany. Large numbers in Kenya, Japan, Indonesia, Brazil and Lithuania also approve of how the U.S. president is dealing with the challenges facing the global economy.

Reactions to China’s Growing Power

Across the globe, public reactions to China’s growing economy are far more positive than opinions about the country’s growing military power. Positive assessments of China’s growing economy are most widespread in the Middle East, where majorities in the Arab countries surveyed, as well as Israel, agree that China’s economic growth benefits their country.
Most in Kenya, Pakistan, Indonesia, Japan, Britain, Brazil and Spain also say China’s growing economy is good for their country. Within Asia, only Indians offer negative views, with just 29% describing an expanding Chinese economy as a good thing and 40% saying it is a bad thing for their country.
When China’s emerging power is framed in military terms, publics in most surveyed nations react less favorably. Majorities or pluralities in all but four of the nations surveyed say China’s increasing military might is a bad thing for their country. This is especially the case in Japan, the U.S., Western Europe and Russia, where at least seven-in-ten have negative views of China’s growing military power.
In contrast, about seven-in-ten Pakistanis (72%) see China’s growing military might as a good thing for their country, as do 62% of Kenyans and Palestinians. Indonesians, by a slim margin (44% to 36%), concur with this view.

Economic Concerns

Opinions as to whether the U.S. or China is the world’s leading economic power, and whether China will supplant America as the dominant superpower, are taking shape against a backdrop of widespread uncertainty about the future and unhappiness with economic conditions at home. In most of the nations surveyed, people say their country’s economy is in bad shape and express dissatisfaction with the way things are going in their country. Moreover, few expect economic conditions to improve in the next year.
Frustration is especially intense in Pakistan, where roughly nine-in-ten say they are displeased with the way things are going in their country, but large majorities across the globe are also dissatisfied. For example, in Spain, dissatisfaction with the country’s direction is at its highest level (83%) since 2003. Meanwhile, the number of Americans who think their country is headed in the wrong direction has swelled from 62% to 73% over the past year.
Only in a handful of countries do more than half express satisfaction with their country’s direction. Among these exceptions are China, Brazil, and India – all dynamic, emerging economic powerhouses, regionally and globally. In Egypt, too, there is substantial satisfaction with the country’s direction (65%), likely reflecting renewed optimism about the country’s future, following the democratic uprising earlier this year
In many instances, levels of overall satisfaction are linked to assessments of the economy. In the U.S., France, Britain and Spain, eight-in-ten or more offer a negative assessment of the national economy, and majorities in these countries see rising prices and a lack of jobs as very big problems.
Inflation worries are especially pronounced outside the industrialized West. Overwhelming majorities in Pakistan, Kenya, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, India and Indonesia describe price increases as a major problem. In Spain, Britain and the U.S., unemployment weighs more heavily than rising prices on the minds of average citizens.
The Chinese public is the most upbeat about economic conditions, with nearly nine-in-ten describing the domestic economy as good. In Germany, two-thirds echo this view, while smaller majorities in India, Israel and Brazil favorably assess the economic situation in their country.
Inflation and a lack of job opportunities are also seen as less urgent issues among Chinese and German respondents. In Germany, for instance, only about a third of the public describes either price increases or unemployment as very big problems. In China, 37% say a lack of jobs is a major concern, while about half are worried about inflation.
Despite economic concerns, publics in all regions express substantial support for growing international trade and business ties with other countries. No fewer than two-thirds in each country say increased international trade is very or somewhat good for their country.

Also of Note:

  • Among those who describe the economic situation in their country as bad, most place the primary blame on government. To a greater degree than others, Western Europeans fault banks and other financial institutions for economic troubles at home, with as many as 75% of those who say the economy is bad in Britain and Spain taking this view.
  • Worldwide, people tend to blame outside forces, rather than individuals themselves for unemployment in their country. In Western Europe and the U.S., roughly seven-in-ten or more attribute unemployment to forces beyond the control of individuals.
  • The United Nations generally receives positive marks among the 23 nations surveyed. However, opinion of the international body is negative in Israel (69%), the Palestinian territories (67%), Jordan (64%) and Turkey (61%).
  • In most predominantly Muslim countries there is widespread opposition to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. Only in Pakistan does a majority (61%) support Iran’s nuclear ambitions, although significant numbers of Palestinians (38%) and Lebanese (34%) back Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear arsenal.


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