Posted by: Dexter Roberts on July 23, 2008
Chinese confidence is soaring in the run-up to the Olympics, shows an interesting poll released yesterday. According to the Pew Research Center, 82% of Chinese believe the economic situation in China is good, up from about half, six years ago. That puts China in number one place when it comes to confidence among 24 countries surveyed. Given that the Chinese economy has seen years of double-digit growth and Chinese are earning more money every year that’s hardly surprising. Chinese also report high confidence in their government—86% of them believe that Beijing is steering China in the right direction. (By comparison, only 20% of Americans believe in their economy, with 23 expressing confidence in their government.)
Despite the optimism towards economic conditions at home, Chinese report that inflation is a major concern (96%), as is unemployment and worker conditions (68% and 56% respectively). Corruption also is on Chinese minds, as well as the importance of protecting the environment—80% say that is key, even if it slows overall economic growth.
When it comes to the Olympics, 93% believe the upcoming Games will help boost China’s reputation abroad, while 96% predict that the Olympics will be a success. 75% think China will win the most medals, with 15% saying that the U.S. will have the largest medal haul, and 3%, Russia.
Also interesting was the fact that even as China shows more confidence at home, it also is looking negatively at other countries. 69% of people reported having a bad opinion of Japan, with 38% calling that country an enemy. And while attitude towards China’s Asian neighbor may not surprise (Japan’s wartime role in China in the ‘30s and ‘40s having left a deep historical legacy of bad feelings), around one-third of Chinese also consider the U.S. an enemy (higher than the 24% who view India also as an opponent.) One slightly odd note: 77% of Chinese believe China is popular overseas, up from 68% in 2005. The reality in fact is much different, with only seven countries surveyed saying they view China positively.
An aside: At least in part, I think that misperception reflects the continuing controls over access to foreign media sources, by the Chinese government. Yes I know: many will say that through the Internet, Chinese have unfettered access to whatever news they want to get. That is in part true although certainly Beijing puts great effort into attempting to control what Chinese get to see online. But also, the net often is best for leading one to the news one wants to see—witness the surge of anti-Western media feeling fanned on the Chinese net earlier this year. I’m quite certain the vast majority of ‘hits’ by Chinese citizen’s surfing online went to sites like the one devoted to trashing CNN’s Tibet coverage, rather than to overseas sites maintained by the Dalai Lama’s government or human rights organizations, for example.
At the same time, despite growing numbers of mainland netizens, many Chinese still don’t have free access to the web. And the ability to have a dialogue online about a whole range of sensitive subjects is heavily circumscribed by the Chinese government. Restricting news coverage Beijing views as objectionable (like ill-will directed at China) in the main national media outlets like CCTV and the top papers too, no doubts limits knowledge of the outside world for many Chinese.