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Chinese Measuring Happiness

May 17, 2011
Plain English Version

Chinese people are not asking each other “Did you eat today? – a traditional greeting in China. Now they are asking “Are you happy?”

The Chinese Premier said “Everything we do is aimed at letting people live more happily and with more dignity.”

At the local level, governments are creating happiness indexes. They are competing for the title of “China’s happiest city.”

Why is happiness so important? One expert says it is a result of the Communist Party’s goal of “a harmonious society.” Happiness is consistent with harmony, he says.

Polls of Chinese people do not always produce the results the authorities want. One poll listed 6% of the people “very happy,” and 48% “not happy.” A story reporting the results was removed quickly from the Internet.

A Gallup poll ranked China 92nd from the top of 124 countries on a grade of “well-being.” Only 12% of the Chinese said they were “thriving.” Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain had similar scores. The United States finished 12th, with 59% saying they were thriving.

Experts are asking, what makes a people happy? Are people happier when they are all the same – rich or poor? One question is that after people have enough income, does more money lead to more happiness?

Income in China is rising rapidly. It is a good place to study the role of money in happiness. There are more questions than answers. When people get more money they are happy, but they envy those with more money. Even people with money become unhappy when prices rise.

The Los Angeles Times


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