Upbeat Chinese May Not Be Primed for a Jasmine Revolution

Mar 31, 2011

The democratic uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere have led to speculation that a wave of pro-democracy movements could spread as far as China. The government in Beijing, for its part, has acted swiftly to quash the possibility of anti-government protests inspired by the Middle East's popular revolts. How much China's leadership has to worry about a mass uprising is an open question, as judging the Chinese appetite for democracy is not easy. Unlike in the Arab world, where opinion surveys over the years have demonstrated public support for such basic democratic rights as free elections and freedom of speech, in China it is not possible to ask citizens about their views on democracy. The government won't allow it. However, on another critical dimension in gauging public enthusiasm for political change - personal and economic satisfaction -- surveys do allow for comparisons between Chinese attitudes and those in Arab countries, such as Egypt. Here, the polling suggests China may not be ripe for the kind of uprisings seen throughout the Middle East.

Unlike the Egyptian public in recent years, the Chinese public has been overwhelmingly content with the direction in which their country is headed. In a spring 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project, 87% of Chinese said they were satisfied with the way things were going in their country.1 Just 28% of Egyptians said the same, compared with 69% who were dissatisfied with their country's direction. In both countries these findings were closely linked to views on the economy: 91% of Chinese characterized their country's economic situation as good, compared with only 20% of Egyptians who said the same. The number of Egyptians describing their country's economic situation as good fell by more than half, from 53% in 2007.

The Chinese were equally enthusiastic about the future of their economy. In spring 2010, nearly nine-in-ten (87%) expected the economic situation in China to improve over the next 12 months. This upbeat forecast echoed optimism found in earlier surveys. In Egypt, just 25% thought the economic situation would improve in the coming year, compared with 35% who said it would remain the same and 38% who anticipated the economic situation would actually worsen.

Read the full report Upbeat Chinese May Not Be Primed for a Jasmine Revolution on the Pew Research Center's Web site.

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