First the good news. After much concern over possible – and actual – unrest caused by the 18 to 23 million migrant workers estimated to have been laid off during the downturn in China’s export sector, it seems that stability-obsessed officials can finally exhale. Numbers released by the Chinese Labor Ministry indicate that all but 3% of the unemployed migrants have already returned to work in the cities, as opposed to loafing about or roaming the countryside inciting riot. Combined with reports that China’s GDP growth is once again projected to exceed 8%, the level at which some have decided the country can create enough jobs to keep up with population growth, are employment worries a thing of the past? No. All of this optimism rests on a foundation of statistics, most produced by the government, and it doesn’t seem like anybody believes the government these days. A recent survey by Insight China magazine reveals that Chinese citizens are taking government statements with increasingly large doses of salt. For example, survey respondents believe that prostitutes are more trustworthy than government officials – even worse, they’re also more trusted than teachers and scientists. According to the survey, perception of government credibility has declined sharply from 2007, which implies that all that Olympic image-building may have fallen on deaf ears. China Daily published a reaction to the survey playing the familiar tune; lower level officials are to blame for ignoring the example of the honest leadership in Beijing. But is anyone listening?
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