Poll: Americans’ Unfavorable Perception of China at All-Time High

A pro-Beijing protester holds a Chinese flag in support of Tiananmen crackdown during a march in Hong Kong on May 26, 2019, to commemorate the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP) (Photo credit should read PHILIP FONG/AFP/Getty Images)

The Pew Research Center on Tuesday released a poll showing the number of Americans with an unfavorable view of Communist China at an all-time high of 60 percent.

A dramatically larger portion of the American public has come to see China as the number one threat to the United States over the past ten years.

According to the Pew poll, the number of Americans with an unfavorable view of China grew from 47 percent in 2018 to 60 percent today. China is now tied with Russia as the greatest threat to the United States, with each country seen as such by 24 percent of respondents. China’s longtime client state North Korea was a distant third with 12 percent.

The increase of negative opinion was especially pronounced last year, with a 13-point swing occurring between 2018 and 2019. Much of this was attributed by Pew to news about China’s rising defense spending, as even respondents with a generally favorable view of China said they were disturbed by its military buildup.

The internals of the poll depicted a bipartisan consensus that China’s military strength is a much greater cause of concern than its economic influence or trade practices. According to the poll:

While people are concerned about the current bilateral economic relationship and increasingly see China as a potential adversary, they do not necessarily think China’s growing economy is bad for the United States. More Americans say China’s growing economy is good for the U.S. than that it is bad (50% vs. 41%, respectively). But, when it comes to China’s increasing military strength, opinion is more uniformly critical: 81% of Americans think China’s growing military power is bad for the U.S.

The partisan split became evident when Democrat respondents indicated they still consider Russia a greater threat by 36 percent to 19 percent. Fully 70 percent of Republicans now hold a negative view of China and 32 percent consider it the top threat. 

An interesting point of partisan agreement, on the other hand, is that roughly half of both Republicans and Democrats believe China’s economic growth is good for the American economy. The poll found younger Americans much more likely to have both an overall positive impression of China and an optimistic view of its economic growth. Among younger respondents, those who thought China’s economic power is surpassing that of the United States were also more likely to view China in a negative light.

Interestingly, both Republicans and Democrats tend to have a poor opinion of Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, who assumed autocratic powers and effectively claimed a lifetime term in office as Americans’ opinions of China deteriorated. Xi is among the least-trusted world leaders according to Pew, with only the likes of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un scoring lower.


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