China: The Pessoptimist Nation

William A. Callahan writes in the China Beat blog:

China is the most optimistic nation in the world. 86 percent think that their country is headed in the right direction, up from 48 percent in 2002 according to the latest Pew Global Attitudes survey.

There are good reasons to be hopeful. 2008 is important not only because Beijing is hosting the Olympics. This year Chinese people are also celebrating thirty years of Deng Xiaoping’s economic reform policy, whose double digit economic growth has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, and created a new middle class that is larger than most European countries.

But China’s nationalistic pride takes pessimistic forms too. Recent bumps in the road of China’s rise have produced fierce reactions from Chinese people. Rather than wondering why Tibetan people would protest Chinese rule, Han Chinese rallied against the “bias” of Westerners who criticized their country. Last year when Western companies recalled unsafe Chinese-made toys, opinion-makers in China called for apologies not just from toy companies, but also from Western media for staining China’s national image.

Chinese public opinion not only targets foreigners, but increasingly attacks other Chinese.


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