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.