BEIJING - The Chinese character "涨" (zhang), which is used to describe a rapid price rise, has been voted "Character of the Year" in an online poll in a move that suggests the public is becoming increasingly dissatisfied with inflation and soaring house prices.
The character received 2,993 votes out of the 7,563 cast in the poll that was organized by tianya.cn, one of the most popular online forums in China.
Zhang was followed by the character yuan (meaning resentment), hui (meaning gray), chai (meaning demolish) and si (meaning death).
A total of 265 Chinese characters were nominated for the voting, which lasted from Nov 2 to Dec 15.
"We heard various opinions about which character summarized the big events of the year 2010 and most netizens finally chose zhang, which mirrors the fact that price surges have affected the lives of so many people," said Ying Jianqun, head of the press department of tianya.cn.
"I hope the related government departments will hear the response from the public."
Meanwhile, the annual Blue Book of China's Society, released on Wednesday by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said prices topped the list of concerns in 2010 and people's ability to absorb price rises has slumped sharply.
Indicators showed that public satisfaction with jobs and social security was at its lowest for four years, the annual report said.
"Urban and rural residents' overall satisfaction with life declined as the negative impacts of the financial crisis gradually came into play in 2010," it said.
Confidence in the government's ability to manage economic, social and international affairs fell, while pride in China's world status, which had been on the rise for four years, dropped back to its 2006 level, according to the report.
"I believe zhang is not enough to summarize what happened in the year 2010," said Wei Wei, a 26-year-old white-collar worker from Beijing.
"It only refers to the fact that there has been a price hike but does not reflect people's feelings of being unable to stand the skyrocketing cost of living."
Wang Shuixiong, a sociology expert with Renmin University of China, said price hikes have weighed on people's minds.
"The price surge of items that are life necessities has caused mental pressure on those wage-earners who are sensitive to prices," Wang said.
Lu Hanlong, a professor with the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said some people have been left feeling helpless because of the hikes.
"The character reflects people's feeling of insecurity amid rising prices, especially among young people who are accustomed to expressing their emotions via the Internet," Lu said. "The government should give a hand to these people because they are more sensitive to food prices."
Lu suggested the government updates the basic living allowance and food subsidies for university students every three months, in accordance with changes in the consumer price index.
"After all, everyone has to eat and the direct assistance will be more effective than attempts to control prices," he said.