U.S. Public Concerned About China’s Economic Power, Policy Experts Differ

Filed under: International,News,Politics,The Economy |

Pew Global Attitudes Project— With China a key foreign policy issue in the 2012 presidential contest and both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney promising to “get tough” with China.

However, the American public has both positive and negative views about China and U.S. policy towards it.

Flag of the People's Republic of China

Nearly two-thirds describe relations between the U.S. and China as good, and most consider China a competitor rather than an enemy.

At the same time, majorities say the U.S. cannot trust China and that the Asian nation does not consider the interests of other countries when making foreign policy decisions.

These results are from a survey of U.S. foreign affairs experts in government, business, academia, the military, the news media and the American public conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project.

When it comes to dealing with China, as many say being tough with China on economic issues is a very important priority for the U.S. as say the same about building a strong bilateral relationship.

Despite generally positive assessments of U.S.-China relations, Americans are clearly concerned about China’s growing economic strength and its impact on the United States.

Most consider the large amount of American debt held by China, the loss of U.S. jobs to China and the U.S. trade deficit with China to be very serious problems. About half say the Asian nation’s emergence as a world power poses a major threat to America.

In contrast to the general public, American foreign affairs experts are far less concerned about China’s rising power.

With the exception of retired military officers, only about three-in-ten among the experts surveyed consider China’s emergence as a world power to be a major threat.

Fewer than four-in-ten experts consider the U.S. trade deficit with China to be a very serious problem, compared with about six-in-ten of the broader public.

Even fewer experts express concern about the loss of U.S. jobs to China.

Moreover, unlike the general public, experts are far more likely to support building a strong relationship with China than to back being tough with Beijing on economic issues.

The public and experts also offer divergent views of how assertive America should be in the world.

When asked whether the U.S. should play a shared leadership role, be the single world leader, or not play any leadership role, majorities of the public and experts choose a shared leadership role.

Among those who do so, 62% of the public say the U.S. should be no more or less assertive than other leading nations.

In contrast, majorities of retired military officers, scholars, government officials and business and trade leaders who favor a shared leadership role say the U.S. should be the most assertive of the leading nations.

Views are more mixed among members of the news media.

The survey is part of the broader U.S.-China Security Perceptions Project, conducted in collaboration with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the China Strategic Culture Promotion Association and the Research Center for Contemporary China at Peking University.

The general public survey was conducted April 30-May 13, 2012, among 1,004 adults.

The elite survey was conducted March 1- May 20, 2012. Those surveyed included 305 foreign affairs experts, 54 government officials in the executive and legislative branches, 52 retired military officers, 74 business and trade leaders, 93 academics, think tank experts and NGO leaders.

Also surveyed were 32 reporters, editors and commentators.

Although not representative of all U.S. foreign affairs experts, the elite survey findings are indicative of attitudes among high-ranking individuals on matters of national security or foreign policy.

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