Americans' Take On China

Americans' Take On China

In the first part of a multi-part series on China, we present a general background on China, the American opinion on China, and whether Americans see China as an ally or an enemy.

Anjali Krishnan

TechnoMetrica surveys are a quantitative representation of Americans' sentiments on various subjects. It often reveals surprises and regularly substantiates popular assessments.

Our latest TIPP Poll on Americans' sentiments towards China largely supported widely-held views. While the majority of respondents did not hold favorable views, it was concerning to note that a sizable percentage of those polled also expressed a lack of knowledge about critical issues.  This prompted tippinsights to produce a China series that included some context and backstory.

China As A Global Player

China is one of the world's first civilizations. For over 2000 years, until the second decade of the 20thcentury, the country was ruled by hereditary monarchies or dynasties. A decade of agitation, revolts, and uprisings against the imperial power culminated in the Chinese Revolution or the 1911 Revolution and the Republic of China's establishment.

Now, officially known as the People's Republic of China (PRC), it is the most populous state and the world's third or fourth-largest country by area. Besides the mainland that occupies a considerable portion of the Asian continent, China also administers offshore territories of Hong Kong and Macau. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leads the one-party state, one of the world's few remaining socialist countries.

China is a force to be reckoned within the world of commerce.  It holds first place in terms of purchasing power parity and second when it comes to GDP. The country wrested the title of the world's largest manufacturer from the U.S in 2010 and has maintained that coveted position to date.

The depth of its economy and diversity in commerce makes it a significant player on the international trade scene. A juggernaut when it comes to retail, steel, electronics, automobiles, and banking, the country is making progressive strides in energy generation, green energy and, e-commerce. Having joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, China remains the world's largest exporter and second-largest importer of goods.

China, a nuclear power, is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and has the world's largest military force, the People's Liberation Army. China's military might, desire for dominance, and treatment of its bordering lands have long irritated the international community.

In spite of its economic and military might, according to the World Bank, Chinese per capita income is only about a quarter of that of high-income countries. Aside from income disparity, China lags behind developed nations in many areas, including government transparency, press freedom, religious freedom, and treatment of ethnic minorities.

Survey Results

We asked, generally speaking, what is your opinion on China?

Only 28% said favorable, and 14% were undecided, while 58% not favorable and a closer look at the 'not favorable' head revealed this:

  • 84% of Seniors
  • 69% of 45-68 age group
  • 64% of Conservative
  • 59% of Moderates
  • 51% of Liberals

The negative perception among seniors and those over 45 years old is most likely the result of various incidents involving the U.S. and China over the last half-century, such as the Korean War, the Sino-Russian border dispute, and the Tiananmen Square Massacre, to name a few.

TIPP POLL Results - America's Opinion On China
TIPP Poll Results, Americans View of China by party and ideology

U.S.-China Relations

Bilateral ties between the two countries have been mainly mutually beneficial. They have differing viewpoints on many international issues, owing to their mutually exclusive political systems. Today, China is the largest holder of U.S. debt at around $600 billion.

In the recent past, Sino-US tensions have primarily been on trade issues. To quote the United States Trade Representative (USTR) website, "The U.S. goods trade deficit with China was $345.0 billion in 2019, a 17.6% decrease ($73.7 billion) from 2018."

Former President Donald Trump imposed sweeping tariffs on Chinese imports during his tenure in office.  This was to counter the widely held belief that China was unfairly exploiting the free trade rules and hurting the U.S. economy.

US China Trade Graph from 1991-2020

The government's ban on "U.S. companies using foreign-made telecommunications equipment that could threaten national security" has muddied the waters further, especially in light of Chinese telecom and electronics company Huawei's CFO's arrest.

Our TIPP Poll asked Americans, "Do you consider China an ally of the United States, friendly but not an ally, unfriendly, or an enemy of the United States?

The results:

  • Ally 11%
  • friendly but not an ally 31%
  • unfriendly 21%
  • an enemy 21%
  • Not sure 15%

Further, 36% of seniors and 27% of those in the 45-64 age group consider China an enemy country.

Despite rising tensions over China's ambitions in the South China Sea, the United States and China have avoided conflict in recent decades.  Most of the concerns have centered on trade imbalances and cybersecurity.  A likely reason why only 9% of 18-24 age group and 10% of 24-44 age group consider the country an enemy.

TIPP Poll- Americas View Of China as an ally or an enemy
TIPP Poll Results: Americans View on whether china is an ally or an enemy along party and ideological lines

Two of the world's greatest economies and military powers at opposing ends of the political spectrum have a lot to contend with on the global stage. With new avenues of concord and conflict such as e-commerce, cybersecurity, and space exploration emerging each day, a lot rides on how the two countries will shape the world order.

About The Survey

TechnoMetrica conducted the online survey from Feb 24 to Feb 27; the nationwide study had a sample of 1,280 Americans, 18 or older. TechnoMetrica’s network of panel partners provided the study sample. Upon the study completion, TechnoMetrica weighted the study dataset by gender, age, race, education, and geographical region to mirror known benchmarks such as the U.S. Census. The credibility interval (CI) for the survey is +/- 2.8 percentage points, meaning the study is accurate to within ± 2.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Americans been surveyed. Cross-tabs are available here.

In subsequent articles, tippinsights will follow up with China-related issues on Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, and the Uighurs.

Raghavan Mayur edited the article.

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