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China's public opinion gap: Chinese youth are starting to mistrust Beijing

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A breakdown of who's suspicious

But a new study from the independent Unirule Institute of Economics found that Chinese under age 25 are consistently more dubious of the authorities than their elders.

Mistrust also appears to run more deeply among the most wealthy, urban, and edu­cated citizens here. "These are the groups of the future," says Shan Wei, an analyst with the East Asian Institute at the National Uni­ver­sity of Singapore. "The authorities are going to be facing stronger and stronger challenges from the population."

Asked whether local government can be trusted to do its job without public oversight, for example, only 29 percent of those over 25 said officials needed supervision, compared with 38 percent of those under 25.

Yu Hua, a well-known Chinese author who believes that a lack of trust is at the root of many of his country's problems, puts rising suspicions down to availability of information.

"My son hears my wife and I talk about what's wrong with the government, and he hears his teachers criticize the government," says Mr. Yu. "That never happened when I was a boy."

Yu's son also has the Internet. "I'm sure that reinforces mistrust of the government, because, on the Web, information reaches the public immediately," often long before official sources carry it, Yu adds.

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