Experts dispute 'trust' survey

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Global Times, January 27, 2011
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A survey conducted by a global public relations firm concluded that out of 23 countries, Chinese citizens trust their government the most, a finding many Chinese experts disputed Wednesday.

The observers said government agencies in the country are actually experiencing a high level of distrust due to recent crises such as the food scandal, housing issues, and the death of a former village head who had a dispute with local authorities.

The survey by Edelman, a US-based public relations company, said trust in the government jumped from 74 percent in 2010 to 88 percent this year. The firm interviewed 5,075 people in 23 countries, all of whom are college-educated.

The report said that trust in the US government declined from 46 percent in 2010 to 40 percent this year.

"How much do you trust government to do what is right?" the participants were asked. Other questions focused on issues including trust of institutions, NGOs or the media.

There was no explanation behind the favorable number.

Weng Xiaomeng, the project manager for the study in China, said a detailed report would be released next month, and added that the figure released Wednesday was slightly different from the Chinese version.

Peng Zhenhuai, a government expert at Peking University, told the Global Times Wednesday that the report failed to accurately reflect the general views of most Chinese.

"This is not true," Peng said. "The fact is nowadays most Chinese feel distrustful, anxious and deprived."

An earlier report by Beijing-based International Herald Leader said distrust permeates Thursday's society.

It said the distrust is becoming an indispensable part of Chinese life and is eroding gov-ernment's credibility.

There are many reasons for such distrust: food and medical scandals, counterfeit eggs, alcohol and tickets, as well as collapsed buildings.

Distrust toward governments, especially at local levels, is common, the report said.

Many people expressed distrust at the local government in Yueqing, Zhejiang Province, after Qian Yunhui, a former village head, who was crushed to death last month.

The local government said Qian's death resulted from a traffic accident, but local residents suspected officials of complicity because Qian helped other villagers file complaints over land rights.

"In Qian's case, the public will not trust the local government no matter how many investigations and conclusions they made," said Yu Jianrong, a law expert. He said the lack of trust in government agencies exists because many "officials are competing with the general public for personal favors."

Another example of distrust involved food. A Beijing primary school student, Zhang Hao, found that 90 percent of mushrooms collected from a market were bleached.

While residents believed Zhang's findings, officials dismissed it, according to the Guangzhou Daily.

Peng said distrust in government agencies is rooted in corruption. "The loss of trust comes naturally when officials abuse their power," Peng said.

Zhu Lijia, a professor of public management at the Chinese Academy of Governance, told the Global Times that distrust could trigger mass incidents if it is not addressed properly.

In 2009, China spent over 510 billion yuan (US$77 billion) on social harmony and stability issues, a figure close the country's defense budget, according to Social Sciences Weekly operated by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

"Local governments tend to clamp down on public complaints," Zhu said.

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