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Confidence in local officials has been dramatically increasing in China, while support for the central government remains high, according to surveys conducted between 2003-2016 by Harvard's Kennedy School.

Why it matters: The findings run counter to theories that rising expectations and growing inequality may be spawning dissatisfaction with the Chinese Communist Party.

Between the lines: The authors found that satisfaction with the government in a particular area correlates with the quality of the environment, public services and transportation infrastructure, indicating approval does hinge on effective governance.

Zoom in: Approval of officials at the county (52% to 74%) and township (44% to 70%) levels has skyrocketed since 2003.

  • Respondents are now nearly twice as likely to view their local officials as "kind" (39% to 74%) and "concerned with the difficulties of ordinary people" (28% to 52%).
  • In 2016, 56% said problems raised with local officials had been "completely resolved," compared to 19% in 2003.
  • Satisfaction with government has risen most in poorer, inland regions where services like health insurance and pension plans became widely available over this period.

The other side: Corruption has long been a top concern, and the percentage of people viewing local officials as "clean" fell to 35% in 2011. It rose to 65% by 2016 amid a highly publicized anti-corruption drive.

  • Air pollution easily tops the list of environmental concerns. Respondents tend to think their local air quality has deteriorated (49%) or stayed the same (29%) over the last five years, but 43% believe it will improve over the next five years.

What to watch: By most measures, quality of life has increased significantly across China since 2003. As economic growth slows, a gap could emerge between the improvements people expect and what the government can deliver.

Go deeper

Poll: U.S. satisfaction hovers near historic lows as economic ratings improve slightly

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Confidence in the U.S. economy remains below its early 2020 levels, though signs of a market bounce-back have improved Americans' views on current economic conditions this past month, according to a Gallup survey out Thursday.

Why it matters: Americans' satisfaction with the state of the union is holding close to historic lows, even as sentiments surrounding the U.S. economy slightly improve based on bright spots in employment numbers and stock market rallies. That, combined with President Trump's job approval rating — which rests below 50% — is "problematic" for his re-election ambitions.

Storms pummel flood-hit Pacific Northwest as border river overflows

An image of the water-logged Sumas Prairie area taken last Friday. Photo: B.C. Ministry of Transportation/Twitter.

The latest ferocious storm system to hit the Pacific Northwest triggered fresh evacuation orders in flood-ravaged British Columbia and at least one mudslide late Sunday.

Threat level: Flood sirens sounded in Washington state as the Nooksack River overflowed south across the border and into Canada. Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun told reporters there was "nothing to stop it," as the rising waters neared the B.C. border city.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada

COVID-19 testing personnel at Toronto Pearson International Airport in September. Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The first two cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected in North America, the Canadian government announced Sunday evening.

Driving the news: The World Health Organization has named Omicron a "variant of concern," but cautioned earlier on Sunday that it is not yet clear whether it's more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.