How is the difficulty about the Chinese writing system viewed by native speakers? Is it a view they share with other learners around the world or do they see it the same way other speakers see their own language?
What would be the criteria for a judging writing system as "good" or "bad"? How well it matches the pronunciation? How easy it is to learn?
The Chinese are aware of the difficulty of their writing system - i.e. that it takes a long time to learn - and proposals to reform it go back to at least the late 19th century. Some people supported very radical reforms. For example, the Chinese author Lu Xun (1881-1936) supposedly said, “If Chinese characters are not eradicated, China will perish” (漢字不滅，中國必亡 / 汉字不灭，中国必亡: Hànzì bù miè, Zhōngguó bì wáng).
One such proposal that replaced Chinese characters with Latin script, was Latinxua Sin Wenz. (Note, however, that not every romanization system was meant as an effort to replace Chinese characters with the Latin script.) Also around the beginning of the 20th century, Wang Zhao (1859-1933) came up with a system inspired by Japanese katakana, but the Chinese government banned the system.
For other examples, see, for example, John DeFrancis' book The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy (University of Hawai'i Press, 1984) and Jerry Norman's book Chinese (Cambridge University Press, 1988).
By the way, some other writing systems are also difficult:
- The hardest language to spell (Tibetan, according to NativLang on YouTube)
- World's Most Complicated Writing System (Thai, according to XidNaf on YouTube)
- The Hardest Writing System! - an animated rant about learning Japanese (by NativLang on YouTube)
As a Chinese native speaker, at least I didn't realize this problem until you ask. Well, we have Pinyin which is more like phonetic symbol to help us input Chinese characters into Computers. As for writing by hands, indeed, it is much more complicated than English.
However, this also made the variety of calligraphy of Chinese characters. Many masters are practicing how to write more beautiful characters through their whole lives. I have to admit that's difficult to learn. The fact is while you are judging it, it is used by the most people on this planet lol :)
I don't have good citations right this second, but I'll look for some.
I can give a personal answer as someone in-country. Do they think others must see it as difficult?
They are very aware and proud of the written language likely being the hardest. They don't expect foreigners to be able to learn it.
Everyone that goes through high school learns at least some English, and so has an idea of alphabetic language. They understand the difference, and understand that Chinese is one of the only non-alphabetic modern languages. (are there any others?)
This uniqueness makes it difficult for all foreigners, and this is understood.
Do they feel like it is difficult? I don't think they long for an easier way. As their first language, I would have to guess it is as natural for them as anyone's first language.
But it would be good to find some research.
From a more objective standpoint about difficulty...
As far as using the language, once you know it --- if you count the number of strokes to write the same sentence in Chinese and English it's usually pretty close.
And that's if you write the Chinese characters the perfect, standard way.
Because Chinese is often more efficient than English in the number of words, a native writer of Chinese using a reasonable handwriting style - with an abbreviated number of strokes - is probably faster than someone writing in English. So we could infer they don't have a problem.