BBC News

China measures rural happiness with 'social harmony' index

By Michael Bristow
BBC News

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image captionThere was no indication of how rural life compared to living in China's towns and cities

China has attempted to quantify the happiness levels of people living in the countryside by releasing a "rural social harmony index".

Officials have been surprisingly accurate in their calculations - giving rural life 59.2526 points out of 100.

The index took into account a number of factors, including democracy, justice and stability, officials say.

But there was no indication as to whether the score was high or low - or if it meant rural people are happy.

Rural pollution

The index was based on work carried out by researchers at the Central China Normal University in the city of Wuhan. They inspected 300 villages across the country, according to Xinhua, the state-run news agency.

They looked at a total of six areas, which also included honesty, vitality and the relationship between man and nature.

These vague-sounding categories are based on a definition of social harmony laid out by the country's communist leaders.

Some areas scored highly: honesty was the top category, meriting 83.65 points out of 100, according to the researchers.

Others did not score so high: the relationship between humans and nature getting 50.74 points. Researchers said the excessive use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides meant pollution was a serious issue in many rural areas.

The Xinhua report on the research did not mention some of the other problems that might affect the "harmony" of rural living.

Nothing was said of the hundreds of millions of villagers forced to migrate to the cities to find jobs because they cannot make enough money from farming. Many migrants have to leave their children behind.

And there was no word on rural land grabs by local officials, or the thousands of petitioners who flock to Beijing to seek redress for personal grievances.

But Chinese leaders, who have made social harmony a policy goal, probably think a score of 59.2526 is not too bad.

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