October 10, 2014

China’s government may be communist, but its people embrace capitalism

While China’s government may be officially communist, the Chinese people express widespread support for capitalism. Roughly three-quarters of the Chinese (76%) agree that most people are better off in a free market economy. And since 2002, the Chinese have consistently been one of the strongest proponents of capitalism compared with other publics around the world, even more so than Americans and Western Europeans.

Most people are better off in a free market economy, even though some people are rich and some are poor.The past 30 years have brought enormous changes to the Chinese economy. In the late 1970s, the government started opening the economy to foreign investment and privatization. With these changes came sky-high economic growth – an average of 10% since 1980. And on Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released figures estimating that China is now the biggest economy in the world, surpassing the United States, though this achievement is up for debate.

China’s incredible economic expansion has led the Chinese to be overwhelmingly happy with their economic situation and optimistic about their future, according to a 2014 survey conducted there by the Pew Research Center. But our polling has also shown an undercurrent of unease with conditions in China today, as many complain about inflation, inequality and corruption.

Which is the most important reason for the gap between the rich and poor in our country today?A broad majority of Chinese (89%) think things are going well with their economy, making them the happiest on this measure compared with all other 43 countries surveyed this year. And they believe things will only get better. Eight-in-ten say the economy will continue to improve over the next 12 months. And 85% think the younger generation will be better off financially than their parents. This optimism stands in stark contrast to findings in Europe and the U.S., where widespread majorities believe their children will be worse off going forward.

Despite the rosy picture in China, many Chinese complain about inequality (42% very big problem) and inflation (38%). More than four-in-ten (43%) say their government’s economic policies are to blame for the rich-poor gap in their nation, one of the higher percentages across all countries in the survey.

The Chinese are also unhappy with the level of corruption they see. Last year, 53% said corrupt officials were a very big problem. And this year, 38% say that giving bribes is important for getting ahead in life, considerably higher than the global median of 16% (percentage saying 7, 8, 9 or 10 on 0-10 importance scale).

Topics: China, World Economies

  1. Photo of Katie Simmons

    is an associate director of research at Pew Research Center.


  1. Katerina2 years ago

    PS: capitalism is a system based on its own theory of the winners. Only those, who have better abilities = can do what suits those who are in power, can live.
    Those who are of no use to those who are in power can die on the streets.
    There is no love and compassion in this and i am not a person who wants to live in the system without love because i am a human and if someone subjects himself to a system based on the benefit of themselves only which is not just, is either the same as those predators or a robot.

    1. Anonymous1 year ago

      Systems based on “love” are really based on force, and are quickly corrupted.

  2. Juan3 years ago

    I am with bob on this there are some rich and poor

  3. bob3 years ago

    It’s really a stupid question, saying “even though some are rich and others are poor”, as wage disparity still occurs in communist / socialist states anyways.

  4. Eric Zhao3 years ago

    My experience in China and US tells me that this research represents the reality. One reason is that China experienced the extreme poverty under the extreme state control so that they embrace market economy. Even the ultra-left in China, who have nostalgia for Mao’s time, would agree that free market economy is a good thing.

  5. Steve Biko3 years ago

    So LESS Americans than Germans agree with the free market? That’s hilarious, but might reflect the huge poverty and inequality they experience.

    But because Germany is a well-regulated country, while America is a chaotic unregulated mess when it comes to the poor, or their 50 different voting system, this number of 70% might be too high, considering the really poor continue to be underrepresented in America.

    The lower British number of 68 might reflect a good experience with the NHS and other government institutions but most likely is just statiscal variations.

    1. Amateur Academic2 years ago

      You also have to take into account WHO exactly are they polling and getting opinions from? If you were to poll only the wealthy people living in the city, without taking into account that of those living in poor neighbourhoods, or even the middle class of suburbia, then of course you can manipulate the data any which way you want.