In this paper we study the effect of optimistic income expectations on life satisfaction amongst the Chinese population. Using a large scale household survey conducted in 2002 we find that the level of optimism about the future is particularly strong in the countryside and amongst rural-to-urban migrants. The importance of these expectations for life satisfaction is particularly pronounced in the urban areas, though also highly significant for the rural area. If expectations were to reverse from positive to negative, we calculate that this would have doubled the proportion of unhappy people and reduced proportion of very happy people by 48 per cent. We perform several robustness checks to see if the results are driven by variations in precautionary savings or reverse causality.