Chinese, Americans trust in their governments a contrast

By Chen Weihua | | Updated: 2017-10-23 06:02

One of my American colleagues in Shanghai back in the 1990s told me that before he came to China, he thought the Chinese people were overwhelmingly against their government. However, after working in China for a few years, he found that the Chinese love their government just like Americans love their government.

Back in the US after a few years, he wrote an article for a local paper in New York sharing his experience.

To the surprise of many Westerners, the Chinese support for their government and leaders is exceptionally high compared with the US and other Western countries.

In the 2017 trust barometer survey released in January of this year by Edelman Global Public Relations, the Chinese showed the highest trust (76 percent) for their government among the 28 countries and regions polled from Oct 13 to Nov 16, 2016.

India and Saudi Arabia ranked second, with 75 percent. The 17th annual report by Edelman surveyed 33,000 people in the world, including 500 in China.

This study contrasts sharply with several recent Gallup polls which showed dismal approval ratings by Americans for their government, president and Congress.

The Gallup poll released on Oct 20 showed that President Donald Trump's job approval slipped to 36.9 percent in his third quarter, compared with 38.8 percent in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, the approval for the US Congress from Oct 5-11 hit its lowest, 13 percent, since July 2016. It was a few percentage points higher than its historic low of 9 percent recorded in 2013.

Another Gallup poll released on Oct 19 showed that only 21 percent of Americans are satisfied with the direction of the US, the lowest in more than a year.

Dissatisfaction with the government remains the top-cited US problem, according to the poll.

Although the current 21 percent satisfaction/75 percent dissatisfaction readings are bleak, they are far from the worst to date. Those were recorded in October 2008, when satisfaction dropped to 7 percent and dissatisfaction was nearly unanimous at 91 percent following Congress' authorization of the Troubled Asset Relief Program to deal with the financial crisis. The highest satisfaction reading, 71 percent, was recorded in February 1999 during the dot-com boom.

Americans continue to cite dissatisfaction with the government above all other issues as the US' top problem. Government — representing a wide array of complaints about the federal government — has been at or near the top of the list for the past nine years.

Another Gallup poll released in May of this year showed that public trust in the government remains near historic lows.

Only 20 percent of Americans today say they can trust the government in Washington to do what is right "just about always" (4 percent) or "most of the time" (16 percent).

The findings contrast with the readings in 1958 when about three-quarters of Americans trusted the federal government to do the right thing almost always or most of the time.

Trust in government began eroding during the 1960s, amid the escalation of the Vietnam War, and the decline continued in the 1970s with the Watergate scandal and worsening economic struggles, according to Gallup.

The report said confidence in government recovered in the mid-1980s before falling again in the mid-1990s. But as the economy grew in the late 1990s so too did confidence in government.

Public trust reached a three-decade high shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but declined quickly thereafter. Since 2007, the share saying they can trust the government always or most of the time has not surpassed 30 percent.

Clearly the Chinese love their government is much deeper than Americans' is for their government.

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