Commentary on Political Economy

Wednesday 8 November 2023


Discontent in China on the Rise as Economy Slows, Survey Shows

  • Study shows people rank growth above defense as key priority
  • Domestic woes have led to softening of attitudes toward West

The survey shows adults in China are convinced their society is riddled with disaffection and worker burn out.

Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Concern about China’s lackluster economy and troubled property market has led to rising discontent among citizens, a new study shows.

According to Morning Consult’s The State of US-China Relationsreport, released Wednesday, the level of satisfaction Chinese adults have when it comes to the way the nation is headed has fallen below even levels reached at the worst of China’s zero-Covid policy in late 2022, when public frustration spiraled into widespread protests against the government.

“These trends are worth watching as a potential early-warning signal, especially given the recent death of former Premier Li Keqiang,” the researchers wrote. “In the past, the deaths of well-liked government officials have led to outpourings of public support and even mass demonstrations,” they said, although added renewed protests appear unlikely at this stage.

Read more: Mourning for Ex-Premier Tinged With Discontent: Next China

That malaise — with the survey showing adults living in Asia’s biggest economy are convinced their society is riddled with disaffection and worker burn out — has seen people rank growth and social stability ahead of defense as the top priorities.

Rising Sense of Burnout Amid a Stalled Economy

Share of Chinese adults who believe their economy and society are experiencing involution in a sign of malaise and disaffection

Source: Morning Consult

Note: Survey has representative sample of about 1,000 Chinese adults.

Domestic woes and the impact they’re having has also translated into a softening of attitudes toward the West, Morning Consult found.

The share of Chinese adults who view the US as an enemy or unfriendly fell 9 percentage points from April to October, while the share of people interested in resolving military tensions rose 6 points, according to the study.

The view from the US is somewhat similar, with the share of Democrats who see China as hostile falling 10 points since the start of the second quarter as US President Joe Biden’s administration makes efforts to put a floor under worsening relations.

But from China’s side, increasingly dovish sentiment toward the US hasn’t translated into an embrace of US business. Roughly seven in 10 Chinese adults say they’re still willing to boycott foreign brands, a figure that’s risen since China’s reopening at the start of 2023.

Morning Consult, which tracks geopolitical sentiment and political attitudes in countries around the world, canvassed around 1,000 adults each in the US and China monthly between mid February last year to early October this year for the study.

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