Perhaps not surprisingly, life satisfaction is associated with socioeconomic status. The well-educated and those with higher incomes——precisely the groups best equipped to confront the social and economic upheaval of globalization——tend to rate their lives more positively. China is no exception.
As in the six other countries surveyed on this point, optimism about the future in China is also higher among the wealthier and better-educated. Among those currently in the top income category, 77% predict that they will be on the top rungs of the life ladder five year hence, compared with a still high 61% in the lowest income group. Similarly, 78% of those with the highest levels of education predict a rosy future for themselves.
Also, as in the other countries where these questions were asked, high expectations about personal progress are more common among young people. (Even in downbeat Russia, 59% of 18-29 year-olds believe they will be in the high category five years from now).
In the category of youthful optimism, however, the U.S. still outranks China, with 87% of Americans under age 30 confident that they will have climbed far up life's ladder of possibility come 2010. Only in the over-50 age category do the Chinese exceed Americans' personal expectations for the next five years.
Feeling Good About Their Country Too
The personally upbeat attitude and self-confidence reported by the Chinese people is further reflected in the numbers who feel that their country is well-liked in the world. Nearly 7-in-10 Chinese (68%) say that other countries think positively about China——a far cry from the mere 26% of Americans who think the U.S. is generally liked in the world. Meanwhile, only 42% of the Chinese have a favorable view of the United States, far fewer than the 71% of Indians who view the U.S. favorably. However, more than half of Chinese (53%) do say that America takes the interests of countries like China into account in its foreign policy decisions.
Most strikingly, China heads the list of countries that are, on balance, satisfied with the way things are going at home. More than seven-in-ten Chinese citizens (72%) express satisfaction with their national condition, while fewer than one-in-five (19%) are dissatisfied. These figures represent a sharp improvement from 2002, when only 48% said they were satisfied with their country while 33% were not. On this score, China far outstrips India, where only 41% say they are content with national conditions. And in China, the level of satisfaction is more than three times higher than in Russia, where only 23% are pleased with their country's direction.
In short, China's citizens, unlike those in Russia but much like those in India, are clearly upbeat about the growing opportunities in their rapidly modernizing society. Business Week recently noted that China's economy has expanded by 9.5% a year over the last two decades. The Chinese appear confident that these gains will continue and that they will feel the effects of continued growth in their own lives.