"Chinese consumers are a beacon of hope," says Michael J. Silverstein, a senior partner in BCG's Chicago office. "They believe they will earn more, they will spend more and their children will have a better life. They don't see a global conflict on the horizon."

"U.S. and U.K. consumers, on the other hand, remain guarded, stressed and anxious," he says. "They are suffering the consequences of four years of recession and continued talk of a 'double dip.' They read the gloomy headlines from around the world and are filled with fear."

The BCG numbers seem to bear that out. About 60% of U.S. consumers and 55% of U.K. consumers are worried about the future, the report states. But only 34% of Chinese consumers feel the same way.

Some other numbers from the BCG study:
  • 19% of Chinese respondents said they were not financially secure, compared with 51% of U.S. respondents and 42% of U.K. respondents.
  • 51% of Chinese consumers believe that there will be a full economic recovery, compared with 27% of U.S. respondents and 21% in the U.K.
  • 86% of Chinese respondents think life will improve over the next 10 years, compared with 67% of U.S. respondents.
  • 80% of Chinese think their children will have a better life than they did, compared with just 24% in the U.S. and the U.K.

The Chinese are also more likely to make education a priority, while Americans say discretionary savings is their biggest goal this year.

That last comparison is a telling sign, one that points to a pair of major economic powers whose consumers see their economies going in disparate directions.

Only one of those economies seems to be trending in the right direction.

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