Chinese people have lots of faith in China, but not so much in their fellow Chinese

Confident on the outside.
Confident on the outside.
Image: Reuters/Ivan Alvarado
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China, more than any other country, feels it’s heading in the right direction. That same confidence, however, doesn’t extend to other Chinese people.

A recent survey (pdf) released by research firm Ipsos ranks China as the country most confident about its future. When asked, ”Generally speaking, would you say things in this country are heading in the right direction, or are they off on the wrong track?” 87% of respondents in China said they believe their country is headed in the right direction.

That’s more than 10 percentage points above India, the second-most optimistic country on earth, and over 40 percentage points above the global average.

That’s a bit of a contrast to how the rest of the world views China. Economists are skeptical of the country’s addiction to debt-fueled growth amid a larger economic slowdown, while advocates for political reform point to president Xi Jinping’s tightening grip on civil liberties as evidence that things in China are getting worse.

China’s worries are also a little different from everyone else’s. The survey reveals that most countries list “Unemployment,” “Financial/political corruption,” and “Poverty & social inequality” as their top worries.

China has plenty of unemployment—the government puts the jobless rate at about 4%, but the true figure is likely much higher. It’s also one of the world’s least equal countries (though it’s improving), and there’s plenty of financial and political corruption.

But more than any other country,  Chinese people are the most worried about “moral decline.” 47% of Chinese respondents ranked that as one of their top-three greatest concerns.

Chinese citizens often lament that people in the country lack moral responsibility. Relentless news about reckless car accidents, small-scale scams, and food safety scandals fuel the sense that a widespread lack of trust is bad for society. China’s growing clout on the world stage and rising living standards may mean that Chinese people are ready to report high degrees of confidence in their country’s performance, but they still have very little confidence in each other.