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Is China The Least Happy Nation? New Global Poll Reminds Superpower What's Missing

Essay: The OECD rated China at the bottom of its “How’s Life” survey. Though China is behind in living standards, the findings are questionable. Still, the survey itself is a reminder that Chinese are missing the real means of judging their lives: free elections.

Article illustrative image Partner logo Shanghai (Zephyrance)

BEIJING - Last week’s much talked about OECD survey, ‘How’s Life?’ ranked China last out of 40 countries in a report aiming to offer a picture of how people subjectively assess their lives.

‘How’s Life?’ used a range of 11 indicators ranging from income, jobs, housing, education, environment, health and security as elements to measure people’s well-being.

The fact that China is at the very bottom of the list immediately set off a buzz among the Chinese digerati, with blogs and the country’s equivalent to Twitter lighting up with commentary.

The report comes from the OECD, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and therefore has a certain authority. However, it is after all just a survey based on data from a Gallup poll, so it can’t be regarded as necessarily true. However realistic it is, it can be only considered as a reference.

Since each country has its own unique character, the way its people measure their satisfaction with life will be different as well. More precisely, what is neglected in the report is the comparison of different countries’ social and cultural backgrounds. One can distinguish certain different aspects of people’s lives among countries, however, it is difficult to give a true account of people’s feelings about their lives using the same ruler. Calling the report a living standards survey is perhaps much closer to what it really indicates.

It’s much easier to quantify quality of life than one’s happiness, which is a subjective self-assessment. One can be miserable in a marble villa, and happy in a stinking slum.

From this perspective, what the list embodies is actually the gap in people’s living standards. And this also explains better why it’s not at all surprising that China is right at the bottom of the ranking.

Although China has become the world’s second biggest economy, it is indeed still lagging far behind the developed countries in terms of living standards.

Daily diet of dubious pork 

Chinese people’s income is lower than that of the developed countries’, whereas prices are often higher. Take housing as an example: many Chinese people will probably never afford to buy their own house. And even if they do, for the same cost, the quality, decoration and neighborhood of their homes will probably never be as good as those of the developed world.

Many Chinese people have perhaps eaten, or are still eating, some recuperated sewage oil, poisonous milk powder or dubious pork, whereas the citizens of decent countries shouldn’t normally be concerned with such issues.

What we should have been celebrating is probably that there were only 40 countries included in the survey -- otherwise China would probably be still at the rear end of the list with an even lower ranking.

Nevertheless, my real point is that a rating based on polls to judge how people’s lives are, and how satisfied they are, won’t be the most accurate.  

Poll surveys are founded on samplings. Choosing the wrong sampling can lead to wrong conclusions. The much more scientific and intuitive standard of measurement is through voting. The ballot will truly reflect public opinion, or is at least the closest measuring mechanism.

As long as every citizen has a vote in his hand, no matter whether the question is about living standards or a life satisfaction indicator, the answer will be very clear and precise.

This is exactly like buying merchandise on the web. No matter how many promises the sellers make, only the buyers’ ratings count.

Han Han, the most renowned Chinese blogger, once referred to the online ratings system by saying that, “If I were a member of the National People’s Congress, I would definitely propose a bill that taxpayers will use Paypal each time their taxes are due. And it’s only when the government has fulfilled its promises that the taxpayers will confirm the payment, otherwise they’d be refunded! This is ultimately the only way to make sure that the government satisfies the public.”

The more people pay attention to this kind of classification, the more it indicates how people feel about the personal emptiness of their rights. The more government officials care about these rankings, the more it shows their weakness, and highlights their need for this ranking to enforce their authority.

If the citizens held in their hands the right to evaluate their government, why on earth would they need to look for illusionary satisfaction from such a list?

Read the original article in Chinese

photo - *Zephyrance






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About this article source Website:

The Economic Observer is a weekly Chinese-language newspaper founded in April 2001. It is one of the top business publications in China. The main editorial office is based in Beijing, China. Inspired by the Financial Times of Britain, the newspaper is printed on peach-colored paper.

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