The Chinese and American people think highly of but at the same time feel suspicious of each other, according to an opinion poll published by the Committee of 100 (C-100), a non-partisan Chinese-American group, in Washington on June 27.
More than 50 percent of the Chinese and American public respondents have favorable views of each other’s country and culture, recognize the importance of China-U.S. relations and the economic interdependence of the two countries, and consider the two countries to be each other’s most important partner. However, the level of trust between the two countries has decreased, compared to the committee’s 2007 poll.
Majority of Chinese and Americans hold favorable views of each other’s country
The U.S.-China Public Perceptions Opinion Survey 2012 was conducted by Chinese and American polling firms in December 2011 and January this year, with nearly 4,200 respondents in China and 1,400 in the United States. The target respondent groups in both countries include general public, opinion leaders, and business leaders with a stand-alone sample of the U.S. policy community.
The survey found that the majority of the Chinese and American people hold favorable views of each other’s country. About 55 percent of the American public holds a favorable view of China, and 59 percent of the Chinese public has a similar feeling about the United States.
The survey confirms the widely held belief that China-U.S. relations are one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world. The United States’ most important partner is China, surpassing the United Kingdom and Japan, according to American public and elites. China’s most important global partner is the United States, according to all Chinese respondent groups.
Chinese and American respondents have distinctly different opinions on the future changes in the strength and influence of the two countries. Over 58 percent of the Chinese public believes that China will overtake the United States as the world’s leading superpower in 20 years, while only 37 percent of Chinese business leaders and 23 percent of Chinese opinion leaders think so. The majority of the American public is confident that U.S. will retain global leadership over the next 20 years, though less confident than they were in 2007. The proportion of American business leaders who believe the United States will remain the world’s leading superpower decreased from 69 percent in 2007 to 47 percent in 2012, and the proportion for American opinion leaders dropped from 62 percent to 55 percent.
It is worth noting that the “China threat theory” is still popular among all American respondent groups, particularly among business and opinion leaders. More than 80 percent of American business and opinion leaders consider China’s emergence as a military power to be a serious or potential threat.
Chinese people are also concerned about U.S. policies. About 40 percent of Chinese respondents believe that the U.S. military presence in Asia will create tension among Asian stakeholders, and around 50 percent of Chinese public and elites believe the United States is trying to prevent China from becoming a great power.
“The two peoples hold favorable views of each other, but lack mutual trust,” said Frank H. Wu, vice chairman of the C-100 and dean of the University of California’s Hastings law school. According to the survey, over 50 percent of American public and elites believe the United States should trust China a little or none at all. Over 50 percent of Chinese public and elites think the United States is not trustworthy.
Chinese and American respondents share hopes and fears on important bilateral issues, especially economic ones. An overwhelming majority of Chinese and American public and elites believe that trade is mutually beneficial, but concerns about trade deficit, intellectual property protection, job losses, product safety, and corruption also make trade the leading source of bilateral conflict. Although a large majority of American elites expect Chinese investment in the United States to create jobs and improve China-U.S. ties, the American public is concerned about potential loss of U.S. technological advantage or even control of its economy.