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Better off than 5 years ago? Most Chinese people polled say yes

October 17, 2012 | 12:24 pm

China

Are you better off than you were five years ago?

In China, most people say yes. Seventy percent of Chinese people said their finances are better than they were, according to a poll from the Pew Research Center. The vast majority of Chinese people also say they are living better than their parents did at their age.

Yet cheer over their financial gains has been tempered by unease about where China is headed. Corruption and the growing gulf between the rich and the poor weigh on the minds of Chinese people as their country girds for a once-in-a-decade leadership transition, the poll shows.

More than four of five people polled said the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. Half say corruption is a grave problem, second only to their continued frustration with rising prices.  

And in the throes of unsettling and sometimes deadly scandals over tainted pork and baby formula, alarm about contaminated food has surged. Four years ago, only 12% of Chinese people called it "a very big problem”; now that number has reached 41%.

Though more than half of Chinese people polled said they like the pace of modern life, nearly as many fear their traditional way of life could fall by the wayside. Perhaps for that reason, nearly three of four respondents said their way of life must be protected from foreign influence.

Despite that concern, more than half of Chinese like American ideas about democracy, the poll found. Fewer people disdain American democratic ideals than five years ago, even as Chinese opinions of the United States and President Obama have cooled.

"The Western democratic spirit has been accepted by Chinese society," concluded an editorial in the Global Times, a Communist Party-affiliated newspaper. Yet "Western-style elections" have lost some of their advantages as "political civilization has been absorbed by countries through globalization."
The Pew poll also examined how Chinese people feel about other countries and international powers. Nearly half see Russia in a positive light, while views of the United Nations were divided. Polling lower were India and Iran, which nearly two-thirds of Chinese people polled saw negatively.

Nearly 3,200 Chinese adults were interviewed face to face in March and April for the Pew survey, part of a series of global opinion polls that covers 21 countries. Researchers said their sample skewed slightly more urban than the Chinese population and estimated the margin of error within 4.3 percentage points.

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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: A street beggar eats food given to him by a pedestrian outside a Beijing restaurant on Oct. 13. Credit: Andy Wong / Associated Press

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