Americans' views of China turning more negative: Pew Research Centre survey

A vast majority of American adults see China's power and influence as a threat. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON - Roughly two-thirds or 66 per cent of Americans have an unfavourable view of China - up nearly 20 percentage points since the start of the Donald Trump administration, according to a new Pew Research Center survey conducted from March 3 to 29.

Views of China's President Xi Jinping are also at their most negative since the centre began measuring them: 71 per cent of Americans do not have confidence in Mr Xi to do the right thing when it comes to world affairs, the data revealed.

A vast majority of American adults - as many as 91 per cent - see China's power and influence as a threat, including 62 per cent who say it is a major threat - an increase of 14 percentage points since 2018.

Economic issues worry Americans; about half (52 per cent) consider the loss of US jobs to China and the US trade deficit with China (49 per cent) to be very serious problems. But that negative view is actually lower than it was in 2012, Pew said.

The survey was conducted via telephone among 1,000 adults as the coronavirus rampaged through the US, triggering rolling lockdowns across states as they battled to contain it.

But views of China were not significantly affected by the pandemic, even as it drove the relationship to a new low as Beijing and Washington traded barbs over the origin of the virus.

"A shifting news environment over the course of March with regard to the role Beijing played in handling the initial outbreak does not appear to have affected how Americans view President Xi in the short term," Pew noted.

Americans' views of China have been consistently turning negative under the Trump administration, which early on identified China as a key strategic competitor and began pushing back against China across a wide front including with tariffs, restrictions on Chinese investment in the US, designating Chinese media as arms of the Chinese state, and leading an effort to restrict Chinese telecoms giant Huawei's expansion into global 5G networks.

In some ways, views of China reflect partisan politics in the United States.

"Nearly three-quarters of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents see China unfavourably, compared with roughly six in 10 Democrats and Democratic leaners," Pew said. "They are also more worried about China when it comes to cyber security and economic issues such as job losses to China and the trade imbalance."

"Republicans are more likely than Democrats to see the United States outpacing China as the world's leading economic power as well as the world's top military. And GOP supporters almost universally say it is better that the world be led by the US," the report said.

Still, negative views of China also increased slightly among Democrats this year, so partisans of both stripes are now largely negative towards China.

"Roughly six in 10 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents have unfavourable views of China, as do roughly seven in 10 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents," the survey found.

Older Americans, those aged 50 and older, are more likely than those aged 18 to 29 to have unfavourable views of China. But this is the first year in which more than half of younger Americans also have an unfavourable opinion.

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