Changing Attitudes in China

Pew Research Center has released results of a new public opinion survey in China which shows changing attitudes toward economic inequality, corruption, the U.S., and a variety of quality of life issues from food safety to the social security net. From BBC:

In a Pew Global Attitudes survey conducted in March and April of this year, 70% of Chinese said they were better off financially than five years ago. And 92% said they enjoy a higher standard of living than their parents did at a similar age.

Still, the same poll, which had a disproportionately urban sample in China, highlights the extent to which many Chinese are struggling to cope with the side effects of economic growth. Six in 10 describe inflation as a very serious problem. About a third say this about air and water pollution. And the cultural impact of rapid change worries many – roughly 70% believe their way of life needs to be protected against foreign influence.

But three issues in particular emerge as growing concerns. First, the poll, which was conducted as the initial details of the Bo Xilai scandal were coming to light, finds growing concerns about political corruption. Half say corrupt officials are a very serious problem in China, up from 39% in 2008.

Second, there is a consensus that some people are being left behind by China’s rapid growth – 81% of those polled agree that today the “rich just get richer while the poor get poorer”. Nearly half (48%) describe the gap between rich and poor as a very big problem, up from 41% four years ago.

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Third, and perhaps unsurprisingly given the number of high profile product safety scandals in recent years, the Chinese public is increasingly worried about consumer protection. Roughly four-in-ten (41%) now consider food safety a very big problem, up from just 12% in 2008.

Only 39% view the current relationship with the U.S. as one of cooperation, compared to 68% in 2010. However, 52% of respondents “like” American ideas about democracy. Despite the satisfaction with an improving standard of living, respondents also expressed concern about the loss of traditional ways of life, with 57% saying they are getting lost and 71% saying their way of life needs to be protected from foreign influence.

Read the full results via Pew Research Center.