Is the Chinese Government Popular? Every year, Pew Charitable Trusts asks people around the world: Overall, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in your country today?

Government Satisfaction USA China

Government Satisfaction USA China

Above, you see how Americans and  Chinese have been responding. And here’s a Beijing resident explaining how it’s done:

My Beijing neighborhood committee and town hall are constantly putting up announcements, inviting people of a certain grouping (renters, homeowners, over 70, women under 40, those with or without medical insurance, retirees, etc.), to answer surveys. The CPC is the world’s biggest pollster for a reason. Baba Beijing wants to honor its Heavenly Mandate and keep society harmonious and cooperative. China’s democratic dictatorship of the people is highly engaged at the day-to-day, citizen-on-the-street level. I find it much, much more responsive and democratic than the the travesty dog and pony shows acted out in the West, and I mean that seriously. I know, because I live in a middle class Chinese community and talk to them all the time. Jeff J. Brown

According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, “Nine in ten Chinese are happy with the direction of their country (85%), feel good about the current state of their economy (91%) and are optimistic about China’s economic future.”

And the survey, which is managed by the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), asked 19,751 people in 20 countries how much confidence they have in each of seven key leaders “to do the right thing regarding world affairs?”  Among the least negative were citizens of the world’s fastest-rising powers: China and Russia. Russians gave Vladimir Putin a popularity rating of 75 and the Chinese gave Hu Jintao an almost unbeliveable 93.

Ivo Daalder, a former staffer on the National Security Council who’s now at the Brookings Institution, argues: “Where is the average condition of the average person looking brighter?”  Umm, China?

Is the Chinese Government Popular?

Pew satisfaction_by_country

Steven Kull, director of, explains Chinese respondents’ generosity by arguing that “when you’re on the rise, as China is, there’s an upbeat feeling that leads to a sunnier disposition. The Chinese feel that life is working for them.”Britain’s BBC World Service asked 22,783 adult  citizens across 22 countries: How much of your taxes are being wasted by the government?” China is the most optimistic among all the countries surveyed for business conditions over the next five years (66% good times). Do we really need to ask is the government of China popular? Let’s ask Jack Ma, one of the most successful Chinese businessmen and one of the richest men in the world:

Martin Jacques: Is China more legitimate than the West?

Research on Chinese Government Trust

In a major national face-to-face survey we participated in, the results of which we published recently in an article in Political Research Quarterly, we uncovered an extremely high level of public satisfaction with the national government. Based on responses from a national random sample of 3,763 Chinese, we found the average person’s support for the government in Beijing was about 8.0 on a 10-point scale. This result is consistent with calculations from other recent surveys.  For example, according to the 6th Wave World Values Survey, conducted at the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, the average level of support among Chinese respondents was 7.5 on a 0-10 scale. This level of support compares favorably with many democratically elected governments across the world.  From these numbers, then, the Chinese government hardly appears on the verge of collapse, as some commentators would have it. Instead, our research shows that, with respect to the political psychology of the Chinese people, political trust – a belief in the legitimacy of the government – appears as the dominant reason for their broad support of the political system. More..

Taiwanese Journal of Political Science

“Hierarchical government trust” indicates that political trust varies according to the level of government. Many scholars have argued that within Chinese society, trust in the central government is higher than trust in local governments. However, the literature is primarily focused on specific groups, and still needs to be verified with more representative surveys. Using comprehensive survey data from the 2012 World Values Survey in China, this article demonstrates that Chinese citizens have varying levels of political trust according to the level of government. The results show that approximately 75 percent of respondents hadhigher trust in the central government than in local governments, demonstrating that “hierarchical government trust” is prevalent in Chinese society. Second, this article uses the perspectives of institutional shaping and perceived performance as a starting point to explain hierarchical trust in government in China. More..

Asia Society

What countries trust their governments the most? According to a recently released survey by global PR firm Edelman, many of them are in Asia: China ranks first, with Singapore, India and Indonesia taking third, fourth, and fifth places, respectively. While the survey showed these countries experienced minimal increases in the number of people who say they trust their government, they received boosts in the rankings because countries everywhere else were in decline. The United States, for what it’s worth, ranked No. 14 on the list of 23 countries, earning the “distrusters” label. “This survey may be useful in stimulating debate on overall global trends in public faith in government and business,” said Laura Chang of Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations. “But, I think one would do well to approach the results with a cautious eye. The survey is conducted online and includes only college-educated citizens in the top quarter income bracket. This is hardly a representative sampling of Chinese public opinion, and excludes those constituencies arguably least served by their government.”

The Pew Research Center released a similar report in 2011 that showed an increase, over four years, in the Chinese people’s satisfaction with their country’s direction. This data explains that “trust” can also be viewed in a nationalist sense — many Chinese who may not be personally happy also believe that their country is making economic progress. Even though 63 percent of those in China rank their “life today” in the “medium” category, 74 percent are optimistic that there will be progress in China in the next five years. Reporters Without Borders also recently released their press freedom rankings. It’s interesting to see where some of the countries that rank highest in trust fall on the press freedom scale. More..

For more on media trustability, see this post..
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