Most Americans Have ‘Cold’ Views of China. Here’s What They Think About China, In Their Own Words

(Noel Celis/AFP; Justin Sullivan/Getty Images; Ivan Abreu/SOPA Images/Light Rocket via Getty Images; iStock Photo)
(Noel Celis/AFP; Justin Sullivan/Getty Images; Ivan Abreu/SOPA Images/Light Rocket via Getty Images; iStock Photo)

Negative views of China have increased substantially since 2018. Today, 67% of Americans have “cold” feelings toward China on a “feeling thermometer,” rating the country less than 50 on a 0 to 100 scale. This is up from just 46% who said the same in 2018. The intensity of these negative feelings has also increased: The share who say they have “very cold” feelings toward China (0-24 on the same scale) has roughly doubled from 23% to 47%.

But what do Americans think specifically about China beyond a number that represents their opinion of the country on a feeling thermometer? To understand this, we asked them an open-ended question: “What’s the first thing you think about when you think about China?” We analyzed the first five references in each response and found that Americans rarely brought up the Chinese people or the country’s long history and culture. Instead, they focused primarily on the Chinese government – including its policies or how it behaves internationally – as well as its economy. Human rights, China’s economy and the country’s political system were referenced most by Americans, coming up among 20%, 19% and 17% of respondents, respectively.

While these broad categories are informative, highlighting the frequency of certain topics and themes, the nuance evident in many responses is important in its own right. Below you can explore what Americans say is top of mind when it comes to China, based on the “feeling thermometer” score that they gave the country.

Note: Here is the question used for this interactive, along with responses, and its methodology.