July 10, 2013

Partner? Rival? For many in U.S., China is both


More than half of Americans say it’s very important to be “tough” with China on economic and trade issues — about as many who say “building a strong relationship” with China is very important.

The fifth round of the U.S.-China Strategic & Economic Dialogue gets underway in Washington, D.C. this week, as Americans continue to have very mixed feelings about their relationship with the nation’s second-largest trading partner (after Canada).

Policy-Priorities-US-ChinaA Pew Research Center survey conducted in collaboration with Carnegie Endowment for International Peace last year found that 56% of Americans said it’s “very important” for the U.S. to be tough with China on economic and trade issues, and 52% said China’s emergence as a world power constituted a major threat to the United States. At the same time, 55% of the U.S. public said building a strong relationship with China should be a top priority, and nearly two-thirds (65%) said U.S.-China relations were “very” or “somewhat” good.

A separate Pew Research survey conducted earlier this year found sharply differing attitudes among the U.S. and Chinese publics on their respective economies. Fully 88% of Chinese called their country’s economy good, up 6 percentage points from 2007; only 33% of Americans said the same thing about the U.S. economy, a 17-percentage-point drop from 2007. Chinese were also more optimistic: 80% said they expected their nation’s economy to improve over the coming 12 months, compared with 44% of Americans who felt that way about the U.S. economy.

The S&ED, as it’s known, was established in 2009 as a regular mechanism for high-level talks between U.S. and Chinese officials. Secretary of State John Kerry and State Councilor Yang Jiechi co-chair the “strategic track,” while Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and Vice Premier Wang Yang lead the “economic track.”

Category: Daily Number

Topics: China, Bilateral Relations, Global Balance of Power, Asia and the Pacific

  1. Photo of Drew DeSilver

    is a senior writer at Pew Research Center.