A new survey shows that most urban residents in China have a positive opinion towards social development over the past two decades.
Respondents also spoke out on the top 10 industries that people believe are accumulating wealth by unfair means, as well as the top ten social problems that concern them.
Conducted by the Sociology Department at Nanjing University in east China's Jiangsu Province, the survey collected ideas by phoning 1,223 residents in eight cities -- Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Nanjing, Shenyang, Xi'an and Wuhan.
The samples, around 152 in each city, were chosen randomly from telephone books or by computer to answer questions designed to find out the current situation and problems of social development in China's urban areas.
According to the survey, 90 percent of the surveyed urban residents agree that over the past 20 years reforms in China have seen remarkable achievements.
When asked which part of their city has seen the most remarkable improvement, more than half said the most notable progress lies in transportation.
It was followed by progress in urban reconstruction, living environments, housing, the economy, education, residents' incomes and the legal system.
Chen Jun, 36, who owns a house decorating firm in Nantong in Jiangsu Province said he absolutely appreciates the progress made in transportation in recent years.
"Highways can take you to nearby cities in a much shorter time than before, and I can be in Shanghai or Nanjing after a few hours' drive. But 10 years ago, this was unimaginable," he said.
The survey showed that more than 85 percent of urban residents believe their life is better compared to how things were in 2000, while 71 percent are content with their present lives.
Major reasons for discontent are scarce incomes (especially among retirees group), employment pressures and educating their children.
Price hikes in real estate and increasing educational costs are two factors that find urban people feeling squeezed for money.
Not surprisingly, both real estate and education were selected by urban residents as among the 10 greediest sectors accumulating too much wealth.
Real estate topped the list with nearly 80 percent of the sampling saying housing costs have soared too fast.
"My friend in Shanghai bought an apartment in the Pudong area at a price of 300,000 yuan (US$36,000) three years ago, and last year he sold it at 580,000 yuan (US$69,900). The apartment is simply worth that much now," said Xuan Lei, 26, who now lives abroad and felt shocked by the soaring prices.
Following real estate are industries of telecom, medicine, electric power, entertainment, IT, education, finance and insurance, cell phone service and automobiles, according to the survey.
Education has become a headache to some urban families.
Nearly 10 percent of them say they cannot afford their children's educational costs and another 53 percent of the surveyed families said they can merely cover the costs, though more than half of the sample confirmed they are aware of the government's efforts in stopping unreasonable charges for education.
Unemployment is the social problem that Chinese urban residents care most about, with one third of respondents ranking it the top concern.
The following problems are the increasing gap between the rich and the poor, picked by 30.9 percent of the sample, and bribery and corruption at 28.6 percent.
(China Daily March 5, 2004)