A Survey Shows the Fact China Has a Successful Government

The ETB report proves that a democracy, where the people rule, has many forms, and the Chinese version of its whole-process democracy is running rings around most others, especially compared to the United States.

The great revolutionary and philosopher Thomas Paine wrote on the eve of the American Revolution in 1776 that “these are the times that try men’s souls”. He might as well have been talking about the global challenges human beings are facing today. The latest edition in the two-decade annual series of the globally-fielded Edelman Trust Barometer (ETB) which measures citizens’ trust in various institutions across disparate countries provides some needed answers about which nations are meeting today’s existential challenges and which are not.

China scores high surprisingly

While President Joe Biden and his allies have been banging loudly on their drums about the superiority of democracies versus autocracies, even holding a farcical “Summit for Democracy” last December calling the defense of their versions of democracy “the defining challenge of our time”. They should take time out to read the widely-respected ETB report which proves that a democracy, where the people rule, has many forms, and the Chinese version of its whole-process democracy is running rings around most others, especially compared to the United States.

Even before Covid struck, survey data had repeatedly shown that the Communist Party of China (CPC) had increasingly earned the trust of the Chinese nation to deliver on its promise to serve the people. Over the past two years, their trust level has actually risen as the CPC crushed Covid and is keeping it at bay. In the US and most other countries, well, it’s a much gloomier picture.

In terms of overall trust by the general population, Edelman asked respondents in 27 countries to indicate how much they trusted their own country’s NGOs, business, government and media “to do what is right”. In the latest ETB, China scored highest at 83 percent, up 11 percentages from 2021. The US scored 43 percent, down 5 percent Year-on-Year (YoY) (and a 10 percent drop from 2017). In fact, the overall 40-point trust level divergence between the two countries has never been greater.

A screenshot of the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer Report

Between China and the US, the biggest divergence in the four components was of respondents’ trust in their respective governments, 91 percent for China and 39 percent for the US, a 52 percent difference. YoY, trust in government fell in 17 of the 27 countries surveyed. The next biggest difference was in respondents’ respective trust in their domestic media. Chinese respondents had a trust level of 80 percent (an increase of 10 percent from 2021) while in the US, the trust level was 39 percent (down 6 percent from 2021), a 41 percent difference. Overall, among the 27 countries, trust in government fell 17 percent YoY ranging from China’s 91% to Argentina’s 22 percent. Trust in media fell in 15 of the 27 countries ranging from 80 percent in China to 29 percent in Russia.

The Biden administration has frequently falsely accused China of not participating in the rules-based international order. Yet, according to the ETB’s objective facts, it’s the US that doesn’t trust international organizations. Trust in the United Nations was highest in China at 85 percent, but in the US, trust was 48 percent. This represented a 12 percent increase YoY in China, but a decrease of 6 percent in the US. Similarly, for the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO), the epicenter of the global fight against Covid, China’s trust level was highest at 87 percent, an 8 percent increase YoY. The US trust level was 49 percent, a 5 percent decrease YoY.

We’ve known at least since the 2016 presidential campaign where Hillary Clinton received almost three million million more popular votes than Trump but because of the archaic, flawed and unrepresentative US voting regime, Trump was elected. ETB data confirmed that the US system is broken. Democrats had an overall 55 percent trust score but Republicans 35 percent, a 20-point difference. Regarding trust in government, Democrats had a 53 percent trust score, but Republicans 29 percent, a 24-point difference. Regarding the media, Democrats had a 55 percent trust score but Republicans, 24 percent, a 31-point difference.

Is the ETB’s data credible? Yes. Edelman is highly regarded and has had 20 continuous years of experience in perfecting survey methodology. More importantly, the results are consistent with recent surveys in both China and the US.

People walk through the Times Square in New York, the United States, Dec. 14, 2021. (Photo/Xinhua)

Governments should serve the people

A long-term study released in 2020 by Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government examined the relationship between Chinese citizens and the CPC from 2003 to 2016. The study found a near-universal rise in average satisfaction toward all levels of the Chinese government in this period based on more than 31,000 interviews in both urban and rural areas. For example, in 2016, the last year the survey was conducted, 93.1 percent of respondents were “relatively satisfied” or “highly satisfied” with the central government’s performance, a 7-point increase from 2003.

And focusing specifically on the Covid-19 crisis, the Chinese public’s approval of its government’s successful efforts to contain the mutating virus is similar. In an anonymous April 2020 national survey of nearly 20,000 Chinese citizens as the virus wound down in China but exploded elsewhere, more than 90 percent of respondents said that they were satisfied with how China’s national leaders managed the crisis. Nearly half reported increased trust of the central government. According to Professor Cary Wu of Canada’s York University, who led the massive effort: “Surprisingly, [the epidemic] actually increased people’s satisfaction and support for their government.”

This study was corroborated by one done a month later by the China Data Lab at the University of California at San Diego. It also showed a steady increase in the Chinese public’s trust of its leaders during the previous year.

On the US side, numerous surveys show a decline in trust in government leaders starting with Trump’s botched “leadership” on containing Covid from January 2020. Even today, the American public also faults Biden’s efforts. A YouGov poll fielded earlier this month found 64 percent are unhappy with his management of the virus, with only 36 percent of respondents believing the government’s efforts are “going well”.

Residents register before getting inoculated against the COVID-19 virus at a vaccination site in a stadium in Nanjing, capital of east China’s Jiangsu Province, Aug. 2, 2021. (Photo/Xinhua)

Why such a contrast between China and the US? The American system is broken, divided into two enemy tribes playing a zero-sum game. The country is still largely racist, and Republicans are doing everything they can to ensure electoral victory, knowing that if elections were really based on one person-one vote, they would lose. Moreover, rather than promoting common prosperity as China does, both parties cater to the elite top 1 percent. There is no sign of a fix anytime soon.

China, on the other hand, has a time-tested and continually honed-system that works. Successive Five-Year Plans receiving input from all stakeholders, together with the CPC’s system of promoting only competent and honest cadres who are given ever-increasing real-world experience, have not only conquered Covid, but eliminated extreme poverty and made China powerful, rich and the world’s second-largest economy.

Jimmy Carter, the US president in whose administration I served, said at his inauguration in Washington almost exactly 45 years ago that “the best way to enhance freedom in other lands is to demonstrate here that our democratic system is worthy of emulation.” By this measure, ETB shows the US is falling further behind China.

Biden speaks lofty words but only results meet both Carter’s test or one proposed two millennia ago by Cicero, the great Roman statesman, scholar and philosopher: “salus populi suprema lex esto” [the welfare of the people shall be the supreme law]. Perhaps, Chairman Mao said it most succinctly in 1944: “serve the people”. That’s exactly what China is now doing and the US isn’t!


The article reflects the author’s opinions, and not necessarily the views of China Focus.