10/18/2012, 00.00
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Among Chinese, corruption, scandals and social problems raise fears for the future

The Pew Research Center releases survey findings ahead of the upcoming Communist party congress. They show fears and doubts among ordinary Chinese who acknowledge the government's great steps forward but who also fear the great threats of the future. Food safety and unequal growth are among the most important issues. Admiration for Western democracy is up.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - In its Global Attitudes Survey, the Pew Research Center found that most Chinese acknowledge the great steps forward made by the government in the past decade but are also very much concerned about scandals involving corruption, food safety and the growing gap between haves not have-nots. The survey, the most complete in China this year, shows in fact that for many, such issues are a threat to the country's future.

The survey is the only of its kind allowed by the Chinese government by a foreign pollster. The US-based Pew Research Center analysed data collected by the Horizon Research Consultancy Group, an independent Beijing-based market research company. Survey results are based on 3,177 interviews across the country.

By and large, respondents agree that the country has undergone noticeable economic progress. Some 70 per cent of respondents said they were better off financially than five years ago. And 92 per cent said they enjoy a higher standard of living than their parents.

However, economic progress has been unevenly distributed; 81 per cent of those polled agree that today the "rich just get richer while the poor get poorer".

Nearly half (48 per cent) describe the gap between rich and poor as a major problem, up from 41 per cent four years ago.

In fact, on the eve of the Communist Party congress on 8 November, which will mark the rise of a fifth generation of leaders, the issue of social inequality has become a major issue.

Among respondents, corruption still tops the list of concerns. Half say corrupt officials are a very serious problem in China, up from 39 per cent in 2008.

The Chinese public is also increasingly worried about food safety; 41 per cent now consider it a big problem, up from just 12 per cent in 2008.

In this period, food safety issues have popped up on a regular basis with full coverage by Chinese media. One case in 2008 saw melamine-laced milk kill six children and send to hospital another 300,000. In a clampdown on illegal additives in 2011, the authorities arrested 2,000 people and closed nearly 5,000 businesses.

Inflation and the cost of living are a major concern for six Chinese out of ten.

For Richard Wike, Pew Global Attitudes Project Associate Director, people feel things have improved, but are increasingly dissatisfied with the fact that some national problems have not been solved, especially as they relate to notions of justice and fairness. Increasingly, the Chinese must cope with the concerns of an ever prosperous and modern society.

One Chinese in three doubts that hard work is sufficient to succeed in today's China. More and more are worried by the country's welfare system and the disastrous state of the environment.

Similarly, fewer people like the pace of modern life, 59 per cent, down from 71 per cent four years ago.

Chinese views about their country's relationship with the United States have also worsened.

In 2010, roughly two in three described the US-China relationship as one of cooperation; today, just 39 per cent shared that view. Instead, 26 per cent now say the relationship is one of hostility, up from 8 per cent in the 2010 poll.

Still, 52 per cent of respondents, especially younger, wealthier, well-educated, and urban Chinese, have a positive view of Western democracy, especially the US.

This has happened, some analysts argue, because Mao Zedong's notion of social cohesion has disappeared. Increasingly on their own, middle class Chinese now want a say in politics.

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