Chinese rank US as top threat facing country in new survey

BEIJING (AFP) - Chinese people believe the United States is the "top threat" facing their country, a poll showed on Wednesday (Oct 5), with most suspecting the world's number one economy of trying to "prevent China from becoming an equal power".

A survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre revealed 45 per cent of Chinese consider US power and influence to be a "major threat" - more than economic instability (35 per cent), climate change (34 per cent) and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (15 per cent).

However, half of the 3,154 respondents in the survey had a "favourable opinion" of the US - including 60 per cent of those aged between 18 and 34.

The news comes as Beijing and Washington are at loggerheads over China's territorial claims in the South China Sea, with the US urging China to adhere to the rule of law and Beijing accusing its ally of interference.

The vast majority of Chinese (75 per cent) believe their own country plays "a more important role in world affairs" than a decade ago, compared with only 21 per cent of Americans, 23 per cent of Europeans and 68 per cent of Indians.

However, this confidence in China's international stature contrasts with a growing sense of unease among many, the survey showed, with about three-quarters of respondents saying their "way of life needs to be protected against foreign influence" - up from 64 per cent in 2002.

Despite China's increasing diplomatic influence, 56 per cent of Chinese said they wanted their leaders to focus on the country's own challenges, such as official corruption, which most said was a problem.

Growing inequality is also a concern, with 37 per cent describing the gap between rich and poor as a "very big problem".

Other worries include: food safety (74 per cent), the country's choking air pollution (70 per cent) and rising prices (74 per cent), as many Chinese struggle to get a foothold in the real estate market.