Rising wealth reshapes views in China

23 October 2012

BEIJING: Shoppers in China believe their standard of living has increased dramatically, but are more concerned about issues ranging from product safety to the loss of local traditions, according to a study.

The Pew Research Center and Princeton Survey Research Associates International, the insights groups, polled 3,177 adults in China, a 55% majority of which were drawn from urban areas.

A 70% majority of contributors agreed they were financially better off than five years ago, whereas 21% reported no real change, and just 5% had seen their circumstances deteriorate.

Overall, shoppers in China proved the second most positive on this metric worldwide, lagging only Brazil on 72%, but coming in ahead of India on 50%, Turkey on 43%, Tunisia on 37% and Russia on 32%.

Similarly, some 92% of Chinese consumers stated that the standard of living they enjoyed was higher than their parents' at a comparable age, and 39% regarded it as "much better".

"As China prepares for its once-in-a-decade change of leadership, the Chinese people believe their country faces serious and growing challenges," the study said.

When asked which subjects they perceived to be "very big problems", a 41% share of interviewees pointed to food safety, surging from 12% in equivalent analysis published during 2008.

The quality of manufactured goods caused anxiety among 33% of individuals, measured against 13% in the last round of research. Score here leapt from 9% to 28% for the safety of medicine.

Elsewhere, the amount of contributors worried about the gap between rich and poor rose from 41% to 48% in this period. Figures here increased from 39% to 50% when talking about corruption.

Rising prices remained the most important problem in the aggregate, having been flagged up by 60% of those questioned, but this actually constituted a decline from 72% in 2008.

"While the Chinese have consistently rated their national and personal economic situations positively over the last few years, they are now grappling with the concerns of a modern, increasingly wealthy society," the study added

Indeed, although 59% of participants "liked the pace of modern life", this total had fallen from 71% in 2008. A further 57% thought the traditional way of life was being lost, and 71% agreed it should be protected from foreign influence.

Data sourced from Pew Research Center; additional content by Warc staff