China's middle class found wanting for happiness

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The Independent Online

It has been a week of navel gazing in China with two new surveys claiming to reflect the state of the nation's collective psyche.

Surprisingly too it seems that China's burgeoning middle class - non-existent as recently as 20 years ago - is finding the stresses of modern-day life a little too hard to bear.

Despite enjoying the trappings of newfound wealth, the near 300 million people now classified as middle class in China have been found to be the country's least happy, according to a poll held by the insurers Manulife-Sinochem.

Their survey quizzed the moods of more than 70,000 Chinese from throughout the nation, all with an annual income of more than 50,000 yuan (5,350 euros). The national average now hovers around 30,000 yuan (3,200 euros).

And it found those who made around 50,000 yuan - defined as the middle class - were the least happy with their lot in life, citing the pressure to make more money and the loss of time to spend with the families as the major reasons.

The most happy were those in the 110,000-200,000 yuan (11,700-21,400 euros) wage bracket while in age group terms it was those in the 30-35 group.

As far as cities go, too, it seems life in modern China is now a little too hectic in the major centers of Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzen. China's most happy cities were found to be in the "second tier'' provinces such as Jiangsu, Sichuan, Fujian and Chongqing.

Meanwhile, the China Development Research Foundation and the Horizon Research Foundation say they have tapped into the thinking of the common man - and found two-thirds of all Chinese think the nation is progressing the right direction. Expats, however, seem to take more convincing with just over half those polled thinking the same thing.

The survey quizzed around 2,000 people from seven mainland Chinese cities and it also found that the United States was considered both the most important nation economically to China - and the nation that posed the greatest threat to China's development.