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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.

Biden details new vaccination initiatives as COVID cases surge

Joe Biden. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

President Biden detailed several new initiatives on Thursday to get more Americans vaccinated and slow the spread of the Delta variant.

Why it matters: The plan outlines aggressive next steps from the federal government as COVID-19 cases surge across the country due to the contagious Delta variant and as demand for vaccines has tapered off.

Senate passes $2.1 billion Capitol security funding bill

U.S. Capitol police officers testify during a House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot on July 27, 2021. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via Xinhua

The Senate passed a $2.1 billion Capitol security funding bill Thursday by a 98-0 vote.

Why it matters: The legislation provides funding for the Capitol Police, the National Guard and other agencies to cover the costs incurred during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.