The Los Angeles Times as a piece on the growth of studies of happiness in China.

“It even sounds a little weird in Chinese to ask, ‘Are you happy?’ but now there is so much talk about happiness, it’s almost become a cliché,” said Christopher K. Hsee, a Chinese-born University of Chicago professor who is credited with bringing happiness studies to China.

Why is the Chinese government suddenly jumping on the happiness bandwagon? Cynics might argue that officials are looking for an alternate measure of success for that inevitable point when economic growth plateaus. But Hsee believes the concept of happiness is a natural corollary of the Communist Party’s propaganda about creating a “harmonious society.”

It turns out that, like everywhere else in the world, rising incomes and standards of living don’t necessarily lead to increased happiness. China.com.cn, for example,

polled 1,350 people and discovered that only 6% listed themselves as “very happy,” as opposed to 48% who were distinctly “not happy.” (The rest were “so-so” or “unsure.” ) A news story reporting the unhappy results in the English-language China Daily was promptly zapped from the Internet.

The results of another poll must have been even more alarming to the powers that be. Gallup last month ranked China 92nd out of 124 countries in a poll in which people assessed their own “well-being.” Only 12% of Chinese described themselves as “thriving.” That put China roughly on par with Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain, countries where the discontent bubbled up in the form of popular uprisings. Denmark led the pack with 72% of people reporting that they were thriving, while the United States came in at No. 12, with 59%.

[To the tune of The Fray, “Happiness,” from the album The Fray (a 3-star song, imo).]