++Addition++Pat Buchanan's recent article on the same subject is here. He raises the interesting question of how democratic capitalism will fare going forward against its most potent rival, autocratic capitalism.
At Parapundit, Randall Parker has recently been churning out several posts dealing with the continued rise of China. As US exceptionalism fades away and the world's epicenter shifts back to Asia, Chinese public opinion will have an increasingly stronger influence on what takes place in the world. A Pew survey ahead of the Olympics reveals a few things worth thinking about.
In contrast to the US, the Chinese public is more optimistic nationally than it is on the individual level. When asked if they were satisfied with the direction their country is moving, 82% of Chinese respondents said they were. Personal satisfaction is also high--81% expressed satisfaction with family life, 64% with their jobs, and 58% with their income--but still lower than national satisfaction is.
In the US, Harris shows that fewer than one in four (23%) report feel optimistic about where their country is headed. Yet more than three in four (76%) say things in their own personal lives are headed in the right direction. The opening sentence of the Harris report captures this sentiment:
The closer to home one gets, the more likely people are to think things are going pretty well.
I suspect some of the perceived pessimism on the national level has to do with political partisanship. Nearly half of Republicans (45%) think the US is on the right track, while only 14% of Democrats and independents do. If Obama is elected, the Republican and Democratic numbers will probably swap spots. Without cultural and political schisms perpetually featured in Chinese media, personal ideology doesn't influence the perception of national prosperity near as strongly as it does in the West.
Why else do the different patterns of satisfaction exist in China as compared to the US? Given where they are now and we're they'll be in ten, twenty, and fifty years down the road, the Chinese have objective reasons to be more positive than Americans do. Are the contrasts between Chinese collectivism and US 'rugged individualism' also explanatory? That is, the individual and the collective are linked closely from a Chinese perspective, whereas the American take is that I know what's best for me and am able to take care of myself, but the bureaucracies always screw things up.
A couple of other interesting bits from the Pew survey of China:
- The Chinese have bought into market capitalism. By a 5-to-2 ratio, the Chinese believe people are better off in free market systems (than centrally-controlled economies presumably, although the actual question (Q11ba) doesn't explicity state an alternative).
- Although the percentage has decreased as China has grown, 77% still assert that children must learn English to succeed in the world. No word yet on what Senator Obama thinks about that.