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.