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Chinese trust government more than Americans do

By Chen Weihua | China Daily | Updated: 2017-10-27 08:25

A common misconception in the West is that the Chinese don't support their government and trust their leaders as much as people do in the so-called liberal democracies in the West. But findings can be surprising.

Back in the late 1990s, one of my American colleagues in Shanghai said that before he came to China, he thought the Chinese people were overwhelmingly against their government. However, after working in the country for a few years, he found that Chinese love their government just like Americans love their government.

Returning to the United States after a few years, he penned an article for a local paper in New York sharing his experience.

Various surveys have also shown that the Chinese support for their government and leaders is exceptionally high compared with the US and other Western countries.

In the trust barometer survey released in January of this year by Edelman Global Public Relations, the Chinese showed the highest trust (76 percent) in their government among people of 28 countries and regions.

This study contrasts sharply with several recent Gallup polls which showed dismal approval ratings by Americans for their government, president and Congress.

The Gallup poll released on Oct 20 found that approval for US President Donald Trump had slipped to 36.9 percent in his third quarter, compared with 38.8 percent in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, from Oct 5 to Oct 11, approval for the US Congress fell to its lowest level since July 2016, 13 percent. This was just a few percentage points higher than its historic low of 9 percent recorded in 2013.

Another Gallup poll released on Oct 19 showed that only 21 percent of Americans are satisfied with the direction in which the US is heading, the lowest in more than a year.

Americans continue to cite dissatisfaction with the government above all other issues as the US' top problem. Government-representing a wide array of complaints about the federal government-has been at or near the top of the list for the past nine years.

Another Gallup poll released in May showed that public trust in the government remains near historic lows. Only 20 percent of Americans today say they can trust the government in Washington to do what is right "just about always" (4 percent) or "most of the time" (16 percent). It contrasts with the readings in 1958 when about three-quarters of Americans trusted the federal government to do the right thing almost always or most of the time.

In sharp contrast, a 2013 survey of 39 advanced, emerging and developing countries conducted by the Pew Center revealed that Chinese expressed the highest satisfaction with their country's direction. The 85 percent satisfaction rate dwarfed the 57 percent in Germany, 33 percent in Japan, 24 percent in South Korea, and 31 percent in the US.

Pew surveys available since 2002 have constantly shown a huge lead in Chinese satisfaction in their country's direction over the satisfaction expressed by Americans.

Even on key concerns of pollution, corruption and inequality, Chinese have displayed optimism that the situation will improve with government efforts in those areas, a contrast to the often pessimistic views in the US regarding the key problems in the country.

It is true that China, as a developing country, still has a lot to improve and to learn from the rest of the world. The conventional wisdom in the West that the Chinese government does not respond to people's demands is also proved wrong in various surveys. That is actually a major factor why China has been relatively successful in the past decades.

The author is deputy editor of China Daily USA.

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