June 27, 2013

Obama seeks to improve economic ties with South Africa as China edges in

south-africa-us-china-influencePresident Obama’s trip to South Africa this week aims to strengthen economic ties between the two countries at a time when China’s growing economic presence in the region has added a new dynamic.

According to the European Commission, in 2011, China accounted for a larger share of South Africa’s trade than the U.S. did. And the new Chinese President Xi Jinping highlighted the importance of the region to his country by making sub-Saharan Africa one of the destinations for his first trip abroad as president. (This is Obama’s first trip to South Africa since taking office.)

us-image-south-africaSouth Africans appear to recognize the competing economic influence of the two world powers – and to welcome ties with both countries. According to a new Pew Research Center poll, about seven-in-ten (72%) say the U.S. has a great deal or fair amount of influence on economic conditions in South Africa; 71% say the same about China. Among those who believe the U.S. and China have a significant economic impact on their country, majorities say both nations’ influence is a good thing for South Africa: 67% for the U.S. and 58% for China.

Regardless, Obama is likely to receive a warm welcome on the visit.  Roughly seven-in-ten (72%) hold a favorable view of the U.S., a higher percentage than in either 2002 or 2008. And a broad majority (74%) express confidence in Obama to do the right thing in world affairs, much higher than the 32% in 2008 who trusted his predecessor, President George W. Bush.

Here are more detailed results and survey methodology.

Topics: Barack Obama, U.S. Global Image and Anti-Americanism, Sub-Saharan Africa, China

  1. Photo of Katie Simmons

    is an associate director of research at Pew Research Center.


  1. Andy D.4 years ago

    Interesting. In a similar research conducted by Gallup, U.S. approval in South Africa has declined since 2008. Why two institutions have completely different results?

  2. Dan Graves4 years ago

    obama knows about our economics about the same as my three year old Grandson.