Comparing Views of the U.S. and China in 24 Countries
In recent years, views of the United States and China have changed a lot. This year, the U.S. is largely viewed positively in the 24 countries we surveyed. At the same time, China is seen much more negatively – especially in high-income countries. But favorability does not tell the whole story. Both countries are seen positively in some ways and negatively in others.
Based on surveys conducted in 24 countries, we examine how the U.S. and China stack up to one another on more than 10 different measures, spanning from confidence in their leaders to views of their universities and technological achievements. We focus on the difference in how people see the two superpowers.
Take one aspect of foreign policy as an example. In Greece, 93% say the U.S. interferes in the affairs of other countries, compared with 56% who say the same for China, for a difference of 37 percentage points. The Greek flag is therefore plotted farther to the left, closer to the U.S. end of the scale, at 37.
Australians, though, see little difference between the superpowers and consider both the U.S. (79%) and China (77%) to be interventionist powers. The Australian flag is therefore plotted at 2, close to the midpoint, which represents no difference in ratings of the two countries on this measure.
Across all 24 countries surveyed, we see that while majorities in most countries see both the U.S. and China as prone to interfering in the affairs of other countries, the U.S. is almost always more likely to be described this way. All of the flags are thus generally to the left of the midpoint and closer to the U.S. end. These metrics can be viewed for each country by hovering over that country’s flag.
Ratings of whether the U.S. and China take each country’s interests into account paints a somewhat different picture. Most flags are still to the left of the midpoint – and closer to the U.S. end – because more people across countries say the U.S. accounts for their country’s interests than China. But the flags are more spread out across the scale because publics feel quite differently from one another about this.
We can also see differences between middle- and high-income countries.1 Selecting middle-income countries on the bottom right of the graphic shows that middle-income countries are mostly clustered together around the midpoint of the scale and that they evaluate the U.S. and China similarly.
Conversely, selecting high-income countries shows that they are clustered together on the left, giving higher ratings to the U.S. than China when it comes to accounting for other countries’ interests.
The U.S. also gets higher marks for contributing to global peace and stability than China does, and the differences in evaluations are often 30 points or more. The difference is greatest in Japan, where 79% say the U.S. contributes at least a fair amount to international stability and just 14% say the same of China – a difference of 65 points. While still large in many countries, differences are smaller in many middle-income countries. And in Indonesia and Hungary, U.S. and Chinese contributions to global peace and stability are seen in a similar light.
As the charts above show, views of China and the U.S. vary a lot among the 24 countries surveyed. Besides foreign policy, you can compare views of China and the U.S. on a few other measures. To see charts and analysis for those topics, keep scrolling or select a topic from the list below.
COMPARE U.S. AND CHINA BY:
Favorable views of the U.S. and China
Difference in shares who say they have favorable views of the U.S. and China
On balance, views of the U.S. are much more positive than views of China, and increasingly so.
Opinion skews toward the U.S. most heavily in the high-income countries surveyed, with differences of 50 percentage points or more in favor of the U.S. in Poland, Japan and South Korea. In all three countries, more than seven-in-ten offer positive ratings of the U.S., and fewer than three-in-ten have favorable opinions of China.
In most middle-income countries surveyed, views of both powers are generally positive, leading to a smaller difference in views. Nigeria is the lone public surveyed with warmer opinions of China than of the U.S., though both the U.S. and China receive positive ratings from large majorities of Nigerians.
Hungary – notably the only country where positive ratings of the U.S. are the minority opinion – and Kenya stand out for having near equal shares of adults who rate the U.S. and China favorably. Just under half offer positive ratings of each superpower in Hungary, and roughly seven-in-ten Kenyans see the U.S. and China favorably.
Is favorability of the U.S. and China zero-sum?
An alternate way to think about favorability is to look at whether individuals in a given country hold positive views of one superpower and not the other – essentially a “zero-sum” mindset.
In nine countries, this seems to be the case: A majority or plurality has favorable views of the U.S. but not China. In both Japan and Poland, 63% of adults have a favorable view of the U.S. and an unfavorable view of China.
Particularly in middle-income countries, though, pluralities of a third or more have favorable views of both world powers. This includes majorities in both Nigeria and Kenya. No more than a fifth of adults in any country surveyed have a favorable opinion of China and an unfavorable opinion of the U.S.
Leading economic power
Difference in shares who say the U.S. and China are the world’s leading economic power
The U.S. economy is larger than China’s but has tended to grow less per year, at least until recently. Still, the U.S. is considered by most surveyed publics to be the world’s leading economic power. And, in many countries, this sense is growing. In Sweden, for example, 51% now say that the U.S. is the leading economy, compared with 39% in 2020, when they were more likely to give the title to China.
South Koreans are especially likely to see the U.S. as the world’s top economy, with 83% giving the title to the U.S. compared with just 8% to China. Sizable differences of around 40 percentage points in favor of the U.S. are also seen in Japan, Poland, Israel and India.
Still, five countries – most of which are in Europe – see China as the leading economy. This includes Italy, which is the only country where a majority considers China the world’s leading economy.
Investment from the U.S. and China
In 12 countries, people were asked if American and Chinese investment have benefited their economies.2
In Australia, Indonesia, Kenya and South Africa, similar shares see investments from both superpowers as having helped their country’s economy at least a fair amount. Conversely, Argentines are equally likely to see Chinese and U.S. investment as having not benefited their country’s economy.
For those in Israel, Poland, India, Brazil and Mexico, U.S. investment is seen as more beneficial.
Only in Hungary and Nigeria is Chinese investment seen more favorably than U.S. investment. Even then, 74% of Nigerians say investment from the U.S. has benefited their country at least a fair amount.
Ratings of American and Chinese technology
Difference in shares who say U.S. and Chinese technology is above average or the best compared with other wealthy nations
The U.S. and China are both widely seen as technological powerhouses. For example, together they dominate the global digital market. Between Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS, American companies have the vast majority of the mobile operating system market share worldwide. Yet China leads the charge toward 5G and global network coverage.
Across the 24 countries surveyed, a median of 72% describe U.S. technology as the best or above average and 69% say the same of Chinese technology. And evaluations of the two superpowers’ technological prowess differ little in seven countries. For example, 83% of Spaniards say American technology is above average or the best, compared with 82% who say the same for China.
Seven publics give U.S. technology more positive ratings. Among them, Israelis and South Koreans stand out for their favorable evaluations of American technology relative to Chinese technology; this is driven by Israelis’ high ratings of American technology and South Koreans’ low ratings of Chinese technology.
China’s technology is seen more positively in 10 countries, including in the U.S. Technological achievements are the only measure where Americans see China outpacing the U.S. About two-thirds of American adults (66%) say China’s technology is above average or the best, compared with 56% who say the same about their own country.
There is little distinction between middle- and high-income countries’ ratings of either country’s technology, but some regional patterns do emerge. China’s technological achievements are rated more positively in the Latin American countries surveyed, while the Asian countries included give the U.S. more positive marks.
Quality of American and Chinese technology products
Respondents in 12 countries further evaluated technology from the U.S. and China on their quality and other attributes.
Roughly three-quarters or more in each country surveyed say American products are well-made, including 94% in Nigeria and 92% in Israel. China’s technology gets more variable ratings, with 82% in Nigeria saying it’s well-made compared with just 36% in Israel. Israel is the lone country to have a majority say China’s technological products are poorly made.
Respondents were also asked about the price of technology products from either country. A 12-country median of 77% call American products expensive, while 42% say the same of Chinese products.
With regards to data security, views are mixed. On balance, people are more likely to say technology produced by American companies protects personal data than to say the same of Chinese companies.
Still, the shares who say American technology protects personal data range from 81% in Nigeria to 25% in Hungary. China’s technology garners similarly varied opinion, with 78% in Nigeria saying it protects users’ personal data but just 15% of Australians saying the same.
Ratings of American and Chinese militaries
Difference in shares who say the U.S. and Chinese militaries are above average or the best compared with other wealthy nations
Majorities in every country surveyed say the American military is above average or the best, while the same is only true for China in about half of the countries surveyed.
In most countries surveyed, the U.S. military receives significantly higher ratings than China’s. There are three exceptions: In Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, all NATO allies of the U.S., the United States’ and China’s militaries are about equally likely to be considered above average or the best. However, the U.S. military gets more recognition than China’s when considering only those who say each is the best.
Israelis stand out for their near unanimous positive ratings of the U.S. forces. While a majority of Israelis rate China’s military highly, the 39-point gap in ratings is the largest of any country surveyed.
Unlike other measures of hard and soft power, there is little difference in ratings of the American and Chinese militaries between middle- and high-income countries.
American and Chinese entertainment
Difference in shares who say U.S. and Chinese entertainment is above average or the best compared with other wealthy nations
In 2020, China replaced the U.S. as the world’s largest film market after a number of successful local productions, and its government released a five-year improvement plan for its film industry a year later. Most of the top 10 highest grossing films globally were nonetheless still American productions in 2022.
Global views of entertainment from each country parallel these trends. U.S. entertainment – including its music, movies and television – is more than four times more likely to be seen as the best or above average than China’s (a 24-country median of 71% vs. 17%, respectively).
High-income countries view American entertainment more favorably than middle-income countries. Entertainment ratings skew toward the U.S. most heavily in Israel, where adults are 71 percentage points more likely to call American entertainment, rather than Chinese, above average or the best. Differences greater than 60 points in favor of the U.S. are also seen among the Dutch, Italians, Poles and Swedes.
The sub-Saharan African publics surveyed offer the highest praise for Chinese entertainment, especially in Nigeria, where 67% say it is the best or above average. Even so, each public gives U.S. entertainment higher ratings.
American and Chinese universities
Difference in shares who say U.S. and Chinese universities are above average or the best compared with other wealthy nations
In May 2023, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced plans for bolstering China’s education system to spread its global influence and create a “‘Study in China’ brand.” Currently, out of the top 100 universities in the world, as rated by the Times Higher Education, only seven are in China, whereas 34 are in the U.S.
This disparity is reflected in views of the two countries’ universities. Across the 24 countries surveyed, a median of 68% say U.S. universities are above average or the best, while just 35% say the same of China’s.
Universities in the U.S. receive significantly more positive ratings than universities in China in all countries surveyed. Middle-income countries give both countries’ universities some of the most favorable evaluations, but the gap in the ratings of the two are similar to the gaps seen in high-income countries.
Europe is home to some of the largest differences as well as the smallest. Poles, Greeks and Hungarians are at least 40 points more likely to say American universities are above average or the best than Chinese universities. The differences are much smaller – in large part due to less positive outlooks on American universities – in the Netherlands, Germany and the UK.
Notably, the U.S. has one of the least positive perceptions of American universities, along with several other advanced economies. About half in each saying American universities are the best or above average.
American and Chinese standards of living
Difference in shares who say U.S. and Chinese standards of living are above average or the best compared with other wealthy nations
As of 2021, both the U.S. and China fall above the world average on the United Nations’ Human Development Index, but the U.S. is considered a very high human development country while China is labeled a high human development country. The difference is reflected in international ratings of the two countries’ standards of living. Though ratings of both vary greatly, greater shares say the standard of living in the U.S. is above average or the best in every country surveyed.
Israelis and Poles stand out for holding particularly skewed views of each country’s standard of living, in favor of the U.S. In Israel and Poland, roughly eight-in-ten regard the standard of living in the U.S. in high regard, while 9% and 19% say the same of China, respectively.
In several high-income countries, ratings of the standard of living are low for both the U.S. and China. For example, just 16% of Germans see the standard of living in the U.S. as above average or the best and 8% say the same of China. In comparison, middle-income countries offer some of the most positive evaluations of the standards of living in the two economic powerhouses.
Respect for personal freedoms
Difference in shares who say the U.S. and China respect the personal freedoms of their people
The U.S. is generally considered by experts to be more democratic than China. Among other organizations, Freedom House describes the U.S. as “free” and China as “not free,” and International IDEA labels the U.S. a “democracy” versus China’s “authoritarian regime.”
Public opinion follows the same pattern. In a survey of 17 high-income publics in 2021, the U.S. government was far more likely than the Chinese government to be seen as respecting its people’s personal freedoms, and previous surveys of both high- and middle-income countries have recorded similar findings. The U.S. government was seen as more respectful of its people’s personal freedoms than China’s even as it received increasingly negative ratings between 2013 and 2018.
In 2021, the differences between ratings of the United States’ and China’s treatment of personal freedoms were especially pronounced in South Korea and Taiwan. In both, roughly three-quarters said the U.S. respects its people’s personal freedoms compared with only about one-in-ten who said the same for China. Differences of about 50 percentage points or more were also measured across most of Europe. Conversely, Singapore stood out for having the smallest difference and being the most likely to consider China respectful of its people’s personal freedoms.
Confidence in the American and Chinese presidents
Difference in shares who say they have confidence in U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping to do the right thing regarding world affairs
When it comes to leaders, global publics are nearly three times more likely to have confidence in U.S. President Joe Biden than in Chinese President Xi Jinping (medians across 23 countries, not including the U.S., of 54% and 19%, respectively). Each country surveyed is more likely to have confidence in Biden than Xi, but this has not always been the case for ratings of the U.S. president.
The gap in confidence ratings of the U.S. president and the Chinese president has shifted greatly in the last 10 years with each American leader. Views of the two leaders were most similar in several countries when former President Donald Trump held office.
Views of Biden and Xi differ across high- and middle-income countries. Those in middle-income countries are more likely to rate Biden and Xi similarly. For example, 71% of Nigerians have confidence in Biden, while 62% say the same of Xi – a 9-point difference.
In high-income countries, the gap tends to be much larger – especially in parts of Europe, including Poland and Sweden.
In many places, though, respondents are less likely to offer an opinion on Xi than Biden. For example, in Hungary, 24% of respondents said they did not know the answer or declined to answer when asked about their confidence in Xi, while only 6% responded similarly when asked about Biden.
About this essay
This Pew Research Center essay was made possible by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Pew Research Center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder. This essay is a collaborative effort based on the input and analysis of a number of individuals and experts at the Center. The results presented in this data essay are drawn from nationally representative surveys conducted across 24 publics in 2023 and 17 publics in 2021. The methodology for each survey is publicly available. This analysis was designed to compare current views of the United States with views of China. Country classifications by income level reflect 2022 World Bank income groupings. For further explanation of international opinion in 2023 and how views have changed over time, see “International Views of Biden and U.S. Largely Positive” and “China’s Approach to Foreign Policy Gets Largely Negative Reviews in 24-Country Survey.”
This essay was written by Laura Silver, Associate Director of Global Attitudes research, Christine Huang, Research Associate, Laura Clancy, Research Analyst, and Nam Lam, former Pew Research Center intern. Shannon Greenwood, Senior Digital Producer, produced the essay. John Carlo Mandapat, Information Graphics Designer, and Peter Bell, Associate Director of Design and Production, produced graphics. Christopher Baronavski, Senior Web Developer, contributed to web development. Moira Fagan, Research Associate, Sarah Austin, Research Assistant, Sneha Gubbala, Research Assistant, and Jordan Lippert, Research Assistant, checked the essay and Janakee Chavda, Assistant Digital Producer, copy edited it. Editorial guidance was provided by Richard Wike, Director of Global Attitudes research, Hannah Klein, Senior Communications Manager, Gar Meng Leong, Communications Manager, and Kelly Browning, User Experience Manager.