Anton Lee Wishik II wrote about an interesting statistic while discussing polling in China:
89% of Chinese respondents expressed satisfaction with their national government and 34% were satisfied with their own life. The corresponding numbers for the US were 51% and 65%.
I don’t know how true these particular numbers are, but I am not surprised about the relative differences in the numbers. I do wish for a more content Chinese population with less satisfaction of the government but more happiness of their own lives.
By the way, thanks Anton. I just want to shout out my appreciation of your effort in blogging about US-Sino Relations.
If you look at the survey he links (http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?ReportID=257), you’ll see this interesting statistic as well:
– 86% of Chinese believe their next generation will have a better life, 6% believe it will be worse.
– 31% of Americans believe the next generation will have it better, 60% believe it will be worse.
I think that’s a pretty accurate representation of Chinese public opinion. Pew Global surveys (and other similar surveys, I think conducted by VISA or Mastercard) have consistently shown that the Chinese are the most optimistic people in Asia (and perhaps the world). Considering that China is a poor developing nation, being unhappy with the current status, but optimistic in the long run is the best thing we can hope for.
As far as the rest of the article, I think Anton is wrong. I’m 99.99% sure the Chinese government has more polls on public sentiment than any other government in the Western world. (I’ve also seen several Academy of Science papers that talk about public sentiment on everything ranging from transportation to fertilizer prices in specific rural areas.) The only difference is, they choose not to make these results public.
Thanks for the kind words.
In my article, I addressed the notion that the results of some polls are not made public as well as the reasoning behind it. Perhaps I did not do a good enough job of distinguishing between polls in which results are made public and those which are not. However, I’m not sure I could agree with your statement about the scope of Chinese polling. I came across some works on how unfamiliar Chinese people are with polling as well as how difficult it would be to do polling on a national scale in China. Also, if you check the translated article I referred to on a new poll to be used in China, you may notice how the Chinese author emphasizes its novel aspect. Perhaps this is due to the abovementioned public/non-public factor. Also, I did come across some info in Zhengming magazine about unpublished poll results, but again, I felt the focus of my article was more on polls with published results. Anyways, I appreciate the feedback.
PS One more thing. A common theme among some articles in the Chinese press on Weng’an and other incidents has been the lack of awareness by the government regarding the concerns of the people. This would seem to contradict your belief about the scope and depth of polling in China.
I think I was too broad in saying “I disagree with you”. There are aspects of what you said that I disagree with, and some aspects that I agree with.
Here are specifics on disagreements… On the Weng’an issue, for example, provincial party secretary Shi Zongyuan and other media reports have subsequently talked about the surveys they had on hand that showed Weng’an was lowest in the province in terms of “sense of security” (not just crime numbers, but opinion). So, the information was there, even if no one found a solution for the problem it indicated.
But in terms of what we agree… well, I have absolutely nothing but complete support for this:
I do remember now seeing something about the statistics you refer to. I guess what left a deeper impression in my mind was Shi Zongyuan going to the store owner next to the public security bureau to try and get a feel for what the people were actually feeling. Seems like a bit of a contradiction there. However, I do appreciate you bringing this up because you’re absolutely right, it is significant that they had polling numbers on hand.
From a translation at ESWN (www.zonaeuropa.com): ‘Guizhou Provincial Public Security Bureau director Cui Yadong: According to the public opinion poll for Guizhou province, only 59% of the people here feel safe, and that is in last place in the entire province.’
So, it seems this is a poll that:
A. May not have been made public prior to the riots.
B. May not have been acted upon.
C. May not have been reported to higher levels of government (the above is a quote from a conversation involving Shi Zongyuan and others).
I’m not sure if the government conducts large-scale comprehensive polling like Buxi thinks . . . .it would make sense, since they are control freaks, but on the other hand as Anton points out a lot of Chinese leaders gauge people’s opinions by the tone of internet message boards (Anton mentions – who was it? Hu Jintao? – going to the People’s Daily message board to see what netizens were thinking.
Similarly, I remember reading in China: Fragile Superpower by Shirk (which I loaned out and so couldn’t directly reference) that she made the point that China’s leadership bases a lot of their foreign policy stances on the general tone of internet message boards – many of which are dominated by ultra-nationalists (check out China Daily’ forum if you want to be completely disgusted). The government leans towards the right because they think the majority supports this direction . . . . but Shirk suggests that the ultra-nationalists are in fact a minority (although extremely vocal online). This suggests that the government doesn’t have a good sense of what the populace really thinks.
Just throwing that out there.
Anton provides a translation of an article announcing a major campaign, to take large-scale comprehensive polls of the people’s opinions of (local) government leaders. The work is going to be done by the statistical bureau, so very serious (non-commercial) stuff, and will supposedly be used to evaluate officials performance.
On another note, another survey released by Pew Global Attitudes:
The IHT article on this: