50 per cent of Americans believe US policy should focus on curbing Chinese influence: Pew survey

The widespread American aversion to the Chinese political leadership and Chinese influence has been reconfirmed in a new survey. About half of the respondents — “roughly” 50 per cent of the American sample population — think that “limiting China’s power and influence should be a top US foreign policy priority”.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden
Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden. Screenshot courtesy: X/@POTUS

According to the latest Pew Research Center survey: “For the fifth year in a row, about eight-in-ten Americans report an unfavourable view of China…. Today, 81 per cent of US adults see the country unfavorably, including 43 per cent who hold a very unfavourable opinion. Chinese President Xi Jinping receives similarly negative ratings.”

Survey data show that “many Americans agree that China’s influence in the world has been getting stronger in recent years (71 per cent)”.

“This sense is accompanied by concern about how China interacts with other nations: 61 per cent of Americans are at least somewhat concerned about China’s territorial disputes with neighboring countries”, says a summary of the Pew survey on its official website.

In terms of the bilateral relationship between the United States and China, only 6 per cent of the overall surveyed Americans see the Asian nation as a “partner”; 50 per cent Americans see China as a “competitor”; and 42 per cent see it as an “enemy”.

The Pew survey summary says: “[Americans] are likewise critical of China’s impact on the US economy, describing its influence as large and negative.”

While “roughly half” of the American respondents say that the US government should make it a “foreign policy priority” to curb this Chinese influence, nearly half (42 per cent) of them think that this aspect “should be given some priority”.

That totals nearly 92 per cent Americans — nine out of every 10 — who believe that Chinese influence should be curbed.

Pew says that its latest survey has been conducted on April 1-7, 2024, among 3,600 adults in the US. It adds that “Republicans are more wary of China than Democrats are”.

“Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are about twice as likely as Democrats and Democratic leaners to hold a very unfavourable view of China and to consider China an enemy of the US. They are also more likely to say that China has recently become more influential,” says the summary.

“Among those who think China has at least some influence on economic conditions in the US, a large majority (79 per cent) think that that influence is negative, while 18 per cent say it’s positive,” it states.

Generation gap within American opinion of China

There is a generation gap within the overall American perception of Chinese politics and influence, as the Pew data show.

As per the summary: “Older Americans are generally more critical of China. A 61 per cent majority of adults [in] ages 65 and older have a very unfavourable view of China, compared with 27 per cent of adults under 30.

“Adults [in] ages 65 and older are also more than twice as likely as those [in] ages 18 to 29 to see China as an enemy of the US.

“For their part, younger adults are more likely than older ones to label China as a competitor and as a partner.”

In the 65+ age group of respondents, about three-quarters of adult Americans “perceive more growth in China’s international influence”, while in the under-30 age group, about two-thirds of adults say the same.

American education determines view of Chinese president

How much education an American respondent has determines how much he or she knows about the Chinese president and, therefore, his/her perception of the Chinese political leadership.

Pew says: “Americans with at least a four-year college degree report less confidence in Xi than those without a college degree. Among adults with a college degree or more education, 51 per cent have no confidence at all in Xi; 44 per cent of those without [a similar level of education] agree.”