Based on our reassessment of existing studies on political interest and apathy in various societies, we argue the urgent need for a more systematic and focused examination of mass political interest—as psychological involvement in politics—in China. Utilizing data collected from a public opinion survey conducted in Beijing, China in late 1995, we intend to shed some light on the level and sources of political interest in contemporary China. Contrary to the prevalent argument that most Chinese are politically apathetic, we have found that there was a rather high level of political interest within our sample. We have also found that both conventional variables (i.e. age, gender, education, income, political efficacy, and dissatisfaction with government performance) and variables unique to the Chinese setting (i.e. being a farmer, becoming a private entrepreneur, joining the Chinese Communist Party and holding leading position in the party/government) have significant effects on the levels of political interest.

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