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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.

Trump's coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas resigns

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty

Scott Atlas, a controversial member of the White House coronavirus task force, handed in his resignation on Monday, according to three administration officials who discussed Atlas' resignation with Axios.

Why it matters: President Trump brought in Atlas as a counterpoint to NIAID director Anthony Fauci, whose warnings about the pandemic were dismissed by the Trump administration. With Trump now fixated on election fraud conspiracy theories, Atlas' detail comes to a natural end.

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Assassination in Iran sets stage for tense final 50 days of Trump

The funeral ceremony in Tehran. Photo: Iranian Defense Ministry via Getty

Iranian leaders are weighing their response to the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, known as the father of Iran’s military nuclear program, who was given a state funeral Monday in Tehran.

The big picture: Iran has accused Israel of carrying out Friday’s attack, but senior leaders have suggested that they’ll choose patience over an immediate escalation that could play into the hands of the Israelis and the outgoing Trump administration.