More Chinese view US favourably but it still ranks as top threat: Poll

BEIJING • With tensions between the United States and China on the rise over issues such as cyber espionage and the South China Sea, their citizens might well have an increasingly hostile view of one another.

On the contrary, Chinese have a more favourable view of America than they did a year ago, based on global survey results released by the Pew Research Centre on Wednesday. Still, many cite the US as a major threat to China, it said.

Three-quarters of Chinese polled said that while their country is playing a larger role in the world than it did a decade ago, their government should focus on domestic issues rather than helping other nations.

And over three-quarters said their way of life needs to be protected from foreign influences - a 13- percentage point rise from 2002.

"Isolationist sentiment is difficult to define," the report said. "But one measure is public desire that their nation should deal with its own problems and let other countries deal with their respective challenges. By this metric, the Chinese are inward-looking, as are publics in most other nations surveyed."

The US-based think-tank runs regular attitude surveys, and China has been a focus for years. In recent years, its view of the US has fluctuated annually, based on poll results.

This year, half the respondents said they had a favourable view of the US, against 44 per cent last year; in 2014, half also held a favourable view. This year, 45 per cent said US power and influence posed the leading world threat to China; in 2013, 39 per cent felt that way.

The US topped the list of seven potential threats listed, including global economic instability and climate change. Only the Japanese expressed more concern about the potential challenge posed by the US.

Respondents in China expressed anxiety over issues that are common complaints there. About half saw corrupt officials as a big problem. The proportion of people expressing worry about the safety of medicines and food has grown. Over three in 10 respondents said water and air pollution were very big problems, while about seven in 10 called them moderately big problems. Half said they would trade economic growth for cleaner air.

China is seeing a slowdown, but nine in 10 said the economy was in good shape, according to the report.

Many complained about rising inequality. "Though it has slowed somewhat in the past couple of years, China has enjoyed remarkable economic growth in recent decades," the report said. "But there is a perception that the spoils have not been shared equally."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 07, 2016, with the headline 'More Chinese view US favourably but it still ranks as top threat: Poll'. Print Edition | Subscribe