The 'Chinese dream' is…the US?
The Chinese may have a nationalistic reputation, but when asked to pick their ideal country, more than a third are looking to the U.S., although they don't expect it to stay that way, a survey by advertising group WPP found.
Around 35 percent of Chinese picked the U.S. as their ideal country today, more than any other country, but 42 percent expect their own country will have taken the title in just 10 years, the survey found. It's a stark contrast to the results in the U.S. and Britain, where respondents mostly chose their own country as ideal, both now and a decade from now.
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Chinese also view the U.S. as the world's most powerful nation, more so than most Americans, the survey found, with 80 percent of Chinese selecting it, compared with only 66 percent of Americans. In fact, only 12 percent of Chinese see their own country as the most powerful nation today, less than the 18 percent of Americans who view China that way, the survey said.
But Chinese are also expecting this power differential to change, with 44 percent expecting their own country will become the most powerful within a decade, in line with the 45 percent of Chinese who expect the U.S. will remain the most powerful, the survey found.
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"They're determined to see this change happen. They justify their optimism with the example of the past 30 years when extraordinary economic growth helped lift over 200 million Chinese people into the middle class," WPP said.
Chinese are also more confident about their country's economic outlook, expecting strong growth, which will help them realize their personal dreams.
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"They're also more confident that personal income will rise steadily over the next 10 years. Young Chinese are especially optimistic about income growth," the report said.
But while the Chinese appear more optimistic about their country's trajectory than their American or British counterparts, they are also more worried about things out of their control.
"In China, much more than in the U.S. or U.K., people say they worry about these three issues: environmental damage, food safety and insufficient medical insurance," the report said.
It's a factor slowing the transition to consumption-led growth and away from an investment-led economy, WPP said, noting insecurity about health care and retirement are spurring people to save rather than spend.
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As you might expect from an advertising agency, WPP believes the results can help market the Chinese Dream to the Chinese, especially if companies highlight their commitment to social responsibility, including fair labor conditions and environmental safety.
Differentiating products in Chinese consumers' minds can offer rewards ahead: around 79 percent of Chinese believe they would be happier if they had more material possessions, compared with 14-16 percent of people in the U.S. and the U.K., WPP said, citing data from The Futures Company.
—By CNBC.Com's Leslie Shaffer; Follow her on Twitter @LeslieShaffer1