Edward Cunningham, Tony Saich, and Jessie Turiel, July 2020
This policy brief reviews the findings of the longest-running independent effort to track Chinese citizen satisfaction of government performance. China today is the world’s second largest economy and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has ruled for some seventy years. Yet long-term, publicly-available, and nationally-representative surveys in mainland China are so rare that it is difficult to know how ordinary Chinese citizens feel about their government.
We find that first, since the start of the survey in 2003, Chinese citizen satisfaction with government has increased virtually across the board. From the impact of broad national policies to the conduct of local town officials, Chinese citizens rate the government as more capable and effective than ever before. Interestingly, more marginalized groups in poorer, inland regions are actually comparatively more likely to report increases in satisfaction. Second, the attitudes of Chinese citizens appear to respond (both positively and negatively) to real changes in their material well-being, which suggests that support could be undermined by the twin challenges of declining economic growth and a deteriorating natural environment.
While the CCP is seemingly under no imminent threat of popular upheaval, it cannot take the support of its people for granted. Although state censorship and propaganda are widespread, our survey reveals that citizen perceptions of governmental performance respond most to real, measurable changes in individuals’ material well-being. For government leaders, this is a double-edged sword, as citizens who have grown accustomed to increases in living standards will expect such improvements to continue, and citizens who praise government officials for effective policies may indeed blame them when such policy failures affect them or their family members directly. While our survey reinforces narratives of CCP resilience, our data also point to specific areas in which citizen satisfaction could decline in today’s era of slowing economic growth and continued environmental degradation.
David Dapice, December 2016
A year after the election that gave an historical victory to the National League for Democracy, Myanmar faces a critical juncture. Ethnic war and religious strife stubbornly remain, democratic gains remain fragile and major challenges, from mineral and hydroelectric revenues, to land insecurity, to illicit drug production and use have yet to be tackled meaningfully. In foreign policy, a resurgent China has indicated that it intends to play an active role in settling conflicts along its border and perhaps further afield. Meanwhile, an expectant public looks for signs of progress from a new government that is still finding its way. This paper argues that the internal and external challenges faced by Myanmar are linked, and suggests that economic progress, unity and effective independence will remain elusive (or could decline) unless the leadership explores pragmatic solutions to ethnic and religious grievances and produces economic growth that is high, sustainable, and widely shared. Click here to read in Burmese version
David Dapice, October 2016
Achieving sustainable peace in Myanmar requires a comprehensive effort which involves real negotiations between the army, government and remaining non-signatory armed ethnic groups. This paper makes the case that the resulting Grand Bargain will have to involve some degree of limited autonomy of states and natural resource revenue sharing. It will provide a basis for compensating armed groups on both sides for lost revenue, bringing revenues to Kachin state for development, and facilitating the NLD government’s investment in development spending for the rest of Myanmar in line with its priorities. Given the sizeable estimated total value of jade sales and the fact that, in the author’s estimate, official government collections for jade now amount to only 3% of sales, the paper examines possible modalities for taxing jade at a reasonable level and sharing these revenues in ways that makes durable progress possible. Several other key challenges to national unity are briefly addressed as well. Click here to read in Burmese version
David Dapice, May 2016
Kachin has just over 3% of Myanmar’s population but a much larger share of its natural resource wealth, notably in the form of large jade deposits and significant hydropower potential. Research findings indicate that currently most of that wealth is going to private and foreign interests, depriving both Kachin state and the nation of resources they need and should have. The author argues that if Myanmar is to remain united, grow stronger and richer, and attract the states so they wish to belong in the Union, it will be necessary to capture a fair share of this wealth and use it for nation-building purposes, especially in Kachin state. Options for sensible approaches to hydropower, jade revenue sharing, and the state’s development more generally are discussed.
David J. Bulman, April 2016
Meritocratic promotions based on local economic achievements have enabled the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to achieve not only economic growth, but also improvements in local governance, as local governments have implemented institutional reforms in pursuit of GDP growth. However, not all regions of the country have adopted GDP growth as the key priority; those that have instead prioritized social stability have experienced not only slower growth, but also worse local governance outcomes. These findings have important implications for the adaptability and resilience of the CCP.