According to a recent poll of young people in 27 countries, Chinese between the ages of 18 and 30 are markedly more optimistic for themselves and their country than most of their counterparts in east Asia and the West. From Patrick Boehler at South China Morning Post:
Asked which country would drive the world economy in the next years, 58 per cent pointed to China and only 31 per cent chose the US, currently the largest economy worldwide. China could overtake the US as soon as 2016, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said in a report in March.
Almost all of the young adults surveyed in China, 93 per cent, said they were optimistic their country’s best days were still ahead. In South Korea, only 77 per cent expressed the same sentiment. In India, 81 per cent did.
[…] Only one-third of the Chinese millennials surveyed said their country did not represent their values and beliefs, whereas in Japan three-fourths and in South Korea two-thirds said they could not identify with their government. [Source]
There are a million caveats to go along with surveys like these, but overall the results are consistent with accounts of contemporary China. For instance, in a recent ChinaFile conversation exploring what’s right with China, James Fallows cited a “sense of national movement and ambition,” while Orville Schell mentioned “people hellbent on building a more prosperous and stronger country.” Chinese people under the age of 30 have never known economic stagnation, and — while income inequality is indeed a real and growing problem — living standards have risen across just about every group in society.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that issues like environmental hazards, municipal debt, official corruption, repression of speech, ethnic tension, excessive militarism, and a long list of others won’t eventually destabilize China, or are unworthy of emphasis in reporting on the country. But these survey numbers paint a striking portrayal of China’s national mood, and one worth keeping mind amid all the talk of a looming slowdown. [Source]
Despite the youthful optimism revealed by the survey, more and more wealthy Chinese have been looking abroad for a brighter future. Better environment, schools, and other social services are among the reasons for this trend.