U.S.-China Relations: Key Data Points from Pew Research
American public opinion has shifted in favor of getting tougher with China when it comes to economic and trade policy.
In March 2011, a majority of Americans (53%) said strengthening relations with China was more important, while 40% favored getting tougher with China on economic policy. That changed in 2012 — a year in which U.S.-China trade became an issue in the presidential campaign. In our October 2012 survey, 49% prioritized getting tougher with China, while 42% said it was more important to strengthen relations.
Republicans were the strongest advocates of a get-tough policy with 65% favoring that course. In comparison, a majority of Democrats (53%) said the priority should be strengthening relations compared with 39% who wanted to get tougher with China. Independents were divided: 47% favored a get-tough approach while 44% said it was more important to work on building stronger relations.
The shifting views of U.S.-China relations came against a backdrop in which perceptions of China’s rising economic power continued to grow around the world.
Looking at 14 countries in spring 2012 that are surveyed regularly by the Pew Research Center, a median of 42% said they believed China was the world’s leading economic power compared with 36% who said it was the U.S. Before the onset of the 2008 financial crisis, 45% had named the U.S. as the top economic power while just 22% said China.
Americans are more concerned about China’s economic strength than about its military strength.
About two-thirds of Americans distrust China and see it as a competitor.
At the same time, the Chinese public has taken a dimmer view of the U.S.
The top three economic concerns that Americans have about China are the large amount of U.S. debt that it holds, the loss of jobs to China and the trade deficit.
Some U.S. media companies recently said they were targeted by Chinese hackers. While the issue of cyber attacks from China was a lesser concern among the general public, it rated higher on the list of foreign affairs experts in the survey.
There are partisan differences among the U.S. public over which issues with China are of the most concern.
Republicans are more concerned than Democrats about economic issues related to China, while Democrats and independents are more likely than Republicans to say China’s impact on the global environment is a major problem.
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