- By David FrancisDavid Francis is a staff writer for Foreign Policy, where he oversees FP's breaking news blog, The Cable. An award-winning journalist, David has reported from all over Europe, Nigeria, Kenya, Mexico, and Afghanistan on terrorism, national security, the geopolitics of energy, global economics, and the European financial crisis. His work has been published in outlets including the Christian Science Monitor, the Financial Times Deutschland, Slate, and SportsIllustrated.com.
Tensions between the United States and China are high. Disputes in the South China Sea, cyber-espionage, and the continuing U.S. pivot to Asia to counter the world’s second largest economy all loom large over the relationship between Washington and Beijing. Despite this, the number of Chinese people with a favorable view of America is on the rise.
That’s according to a global survey by the Pew Research Center, released Wednesday of 3,154 respondents in China. The annual tally — a rare glimpse into the minds of ordinary Chinese citizens due to government and media censorship — concluded that half of Chinese respondents have a favorable view of the United States in China, up from 44 percent in 2015. The rise comes even as 45 percent of respondents said they view the United States as a major threat to China.
Chinese citizens also see their country’s role in global affairs on the uptick. According to Pew, 75 percent of those who responded “China plays a more important role” in the world than a decade ago. However, 77 percent also think the Chinese “way of life needs to be protected against foreign influence” — a dramatic rise of 13 percent since 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.”
Pew also explored Chinese views toward the U.S. presidential election. The survey found that Democrat Hillary Clinton was seen favorably by 37 percent of Chinese citizens, compared to 22 percent who viewed Republican Donald Trump in a positive light. Both candidates have blasted China for currency manipulation on the campaign trail, but the far more vitriolic rhetoric comes out of the GOP camp.
And despite a clear economic slowdown — China’s 2015 GDP growth was its slowest in a quarter-century — most surveyed are optimistic about their economic future, and believe Chinese leaders can tackle coming challenges. Most polled believe crackdowns on corruption are coming in the coming years. Nearly half of respondents said food safety in the country was improving. Eighty percent said they believe Chinese children would be better off than their parents.
Compare that to sentiment in the United States. According to a CNN/ORC poll conducted earlier this year, 56 percent of Americans think their kids will be worse off than their parents.
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