Why Chinese people rate their country higher?

15:37, April 27, 2011      

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The Pew Research Center's recent global opinion polls say Chinese are more satisfied with the direction of their country than people in the United States. The results seem baffling as average American families enjoy far higher livelihood and far more rights – as always boasted by American politicians and press.

The mystery is perhaps shrouded in our perceptions of what we are taught to believe. Coming out of the cocoon called "proletariat revolution" about 30 years ago, Chinese people are loath to being led to another ideological struggle. They had tasted the bitterness of a relentless strife – nothing but poverty. By just getting rid of ideological squabbles, China was released from the shackles and its steady ascent started.

However, Americans are taught to be democracy and freedom fighters. They have sent their soldiers to foreign countries to fight for their moral highland. At home, they, too, have dug deep and solidified fortifications. The people there are getting increasingly agitated and antagonized against each other, divided by political party doctrines, religious beliefs, and differences in "trivialities" like abortion and gay marriage –all ideology. The politicians at the White House and the Congress are always quarrelling, getting little done.

That is why when both peoples were asked the same question: "Overall, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in your country today?" in the last poll in late 2010, 87 percent of Chinese answered "satisfied", contrasting to only 30 percent in the U.S. And, the gap between China and the U.S. has been widening. The first year Pew included China in the survey, in 2005, only 72 percent Chinese said they were content, compared with 39 percent in the U.S.

Over a five-year period, the gap in the number answering "satisfied" between the two countries has widened from 33 percent to 57 percent. During those five years, China's economy attained an annual more than 10 percent growth – Chinese income rose by the same magnitude, while the U.S.' average growth is merely 2 percent – cut short by the 2009 Wall Street crisis and a subsequent Great Recession, which has left many families toiling in stark financial doldrums till today.

One succinct reason that Chinese are more satisfied with their lots than Americans is because China is rising fast, while the U.S. is stalling, if not stagnating. The latest forecast by the International Monetary Fund predicts China's production of industries and services would reach 18.8 trillion U.S. dollars in Purchase-Parity- Price terms by as early as 2016, surpassing the United States. It sounds too upbeat, but IMF and other organizations have spoken of their confidence in China.

Though China doesn't have the multiple political parties contesting for the governing power, as in the United States and many others, the country has amplified the ability to get things done benefiting a majority of the people.

Comparisons and contrasts are a legion. When the laissez-faire free market growth pursued by the U.S. hit a climax and triggered the sub-prime mortgage crisis three years ago, global economic engine came to a sudden stop. Washington was involved in clueless political bickering, and rushed taxpayers' money to the rescue of Wall Street too-big-to-fail banks. Beijing was quick to initiate a 4-trillion-yuan stimulus plan, and spent heavily on infrastructure projects that immediately propped up economy and created millions of urgently-needed jobs.

Take another instance. China's legislature has taken a government draft law to levy less on low- and middle-class incomes, while charge more taxes on individuals earning 30,000 yuan (US$4,750) per month. Tax rates as high as 45 percent will be levied on people earning more than 80,000 yuan. The move is made in accordance with the people's demand for nurturing a more equitable and balanced country in China.

In the United States, Obama administration, facing a historical high of national debts, extended Bush-era tax holidays in 2010 for all Americans, including those making a lofty US$250,000 per year for couples and US$200,000 for singles. Entering this year, Washington has begun to legislate on lower spending on Medicare and Medicaid – cutting into medical benefits of the old, the poor and the disabled, a move that has enraged many ordinary Americans.

Do we need more examples to prove whose direction is right? The advantages of the Chinese system include the ability to respond to the People's needs without having to deal with politics: If it is needed, it is done, said a Western online reader.

It is so hard for Americans to understand that there is an alternative to "rugged individualism", that it is possible for individuals collectively in an entire country to place People first.

The articles in this column represent the author's views only. They do not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.

By Li Hong, People's Daily Online
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