High Peaks Pure Earth has translated Woeser’s response to a CCTV poll which claimed that Lhasa was China’s happiest city:
I laughed and asked back, living under gunpoint day and night, being followed by snipers even when going to the temple to pray, how can there be any sense of happiness?
A few days later, this absolutely absurd news was released: CCTV’s financial channel, ‘CCTV Economic Life Survey’ announced the results of a happiness measuring survey in which Lhasa won the first prize and was awarded the “2010 City With the Happiest People”. I remembered that it was not the first time that Lhasa was considered the “happiest”. I did a quick search on the internet and found that this was a survey carried out by China’s largest media corporation and had been running for the fifth year in a row; Lhasa had been called the “happiest” for the fourth time in a row, it had always been the first out of a hundred Chinese cities. The only one time when Lhasa did not come in first, it was still rated third and wasn’t this one time in 2008? As everyone knows, in March 2008 the protests that erupted and spread over the whole of Tibet started in Lhasa, so if Lhasa people were all this “happy”, why would they protest?
Beijing Review provided a more general look at the survey, including the relationship between income and happiness:
According to the survey, income may be a double-edged sword. At lower income levels, more income corresponds to greater happiness. However, at higher income levels this relationship breaks down.
The positive effect of income on happiness is obvious in families with income less than 20,000 yuan ($3,000) per year, which represents about half of all families in China. For high-income families, however, the relationship of income to happiness is less clear. For example, the percentages of “very happy” and “very unhappy” people in high-income families are both higher than the average.
This has some resonance with findings in, for example, the United States. From the Wall Street Journal:
It turns out there is a specific dollar number, or income plateau, after which more money has no measurable effect on day-to-day contentment.
The magic income: $75,000 a year. As people earn more money, their day-to-day happiness rises. Until you hit $75,000. After that, it is just more stuff, with no gain in happiness.
That doesn’t mean wealthy and ultrawealthy are equally happy. More money does boost people’s life assessment, all the way up the income ladder. People who earned $160,000 a year, for instance, reported more overall satisfaction than people earning $120,000, and so on.
“Giving people more income beyond 75K is not going to do much for their daily mood … but it is going to make them feel they have a better life,” Mr. Deaton told the Associated Press.
He added that, “As an economist I tend to think money is good for you, and am pleased to find some evidence for that.”