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China vs. the United States

A Popularity Contest in the Global Court of Public Opinion

Economic Power

The two superpowers went head-to-head in a worldwide survey, recently published by the Pew Research Center. Comparisons in the survey included perceptions of global image, world power, ways of doing business, popular culture, political views, individual rights, science and military threat, among others.

Based on the survey, the Pew Report identified the following general global opinions:*

Strong Ties with US or China

China’s economic power is on the rise, and many think it will eventually supplant the United States as the world’s dominant superpower.

  • Overall, the U.S. enjoys a stronger global image than China.
  • Globally, people are more likely to consider the U.S. a partner to their country than to see China in this way, although relatively few think of either nation as an enemy.
  • The military power of both nations worries many.
  • China’s growing military strength is viewed with trepidation in neighboring Japan, South Korea, Australia and the Philippines.
  • Meanwhile, the Obama administration’s use of drone strikes faces broad opposition – half or more in 31 of 39 countries disapprove of U.S. drone attacks against extremist groups.
  • Across the nations surveyed, a median of 70% say the American government respects the personal freedoms of its people. In contrast, a median of only 36% say this about China.

US consider your interestsChina consider your interests

Not surprisingly, attitudes towards the U.S. and China varied significantly by region:

  • In Europe, the U.S. gets mostly positive ratings. President Barack Obama has been consistently popular among Europeans, and since he took office in 2009, Obama’s popularity has given America’s image a significant boost in the region.
  • European perceptions of China are much less positive – among the eight European Union nations polled, Greece is the only one in which a majority expresses a favorable view of China.
  • Moreover, ratings for China have declined significantly over the last two years in a number of EU countries, including Britain, France, Poland and Spain.
  • America’s image is the most negative in parts of the Muslim world, especially Pakistan (11% favorable), Jordan (14%), Egypt (16%), and the Palestinian territories (16%). Only 21% of Turks see the U.S. positively, although this is actually a slight improvement from last year’s 15%.
  • But the Muslim world is hardly monolithic, and America receives largely positive ratings in predominantly Muslim nations such as Senegal in West Africa and Indonesia and Malaysia in Southeast Asia.
  • Elsewhere in the Asia/Pacific region, the U.S. receives particularly favorable reviews in the Philippines, South Korea and Japan.
  • Chinese investment in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa has increased significantly over the past decade, and views toward China are largely positive in both regions.
  • Attitudes toward the U.S. also tend to be favorable, and overall the U.S. receives slightly higher ratings than China in in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa.

The survey also finds rising tensions between the American and Chinese publics:

  • Just 37% of Americans express a positive view of China, down from 51% two years ago.
  • Similarly, ratings for the U.S. have plummeted in China – in a 2010 poll conducted a few months after a visit to China by President Obama, 58% had a favorable impression of the U.S., compared with 40% today.
  • Young people in both countries express more positive attitudes about the other, a finding that is part of a broader pattern – in many countries, both the U.S. and China receive more favorable marks from people under age 30.
*Note: Survey conclusions above are quoted verbatim to avoid external  interpretation of the results.

For more details, the full 132-page report may be downloaded from the Pew Research Center at the following link:

http://www.pewglobal.org/files/2013/07/Pew-Research-Global-Attitudes-Project-Balance-of-Power-Report-FINAL-July-18-2013.pdf

The report above is shared courtesy of Ray Hays, Member of Arizona District Export Council.

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