China Leadership Monitor

China's Domestic Agenda: Social Pressures and Public Opinion

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

In the months since he has taken over as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Hu Jintao has focused on domestic issues. Indeed, recent interviews in China suggest that some foreign policy specialists are concerned that Hu's domestic interests will distract him from important foreign policy issues. In any event, a recently published survey of social trends in China outlines the depth of the problems facing the Chinese government. These are not short-term or easily handled problems; they are rooted in the demography of China and in the long-term separation between urban and rural areas. Public opinion surveys suggest that China's most vulnerable do indeed feel worried about the future. Nevertheless, the same surveys show that a sizable majority of Chinese is cautiously optimistic about the future. Such assessments of the future appear to give the government a window of opportunity for addressing the social pressures it faces.