Americans are increasingly seeing China as an “enemy” of the U.S. rather than a competitor, reflecting growing public skepticism over the ability for the world’s two largest economies to cooperate, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.
Some 38% of respondents to the survey labeled China as an “enemy,” up 13 percentage points from last year. More than half those polled described China as a “competitor,” while just 6% said the country was a “partner” of the U.S.
The survey of more than 3,500 U.S. adults, which was taken in late March and published Wednesday, also found that 83% of respondents had “unfavorable opinions” of China — up one percentage point from 2022. The Pew report drew upon focus groups conducted in Virginia late last year, too.
“People are broadly concerned about China’s role in the world,” the Pew researchers wrote in the report, which also highlighted worries about Chinese President Xi Jinping’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the aftermath of the ongoing war in Ukraine. “Few Americans have confidence in Xi to do the right thing in world affairs — including nearly half who say they have no confidence at all in him.”
The report underscores the worsening U.S.-China relationship, which soured during the Trump administration with the trade war and was further strained during the pandemic, which former President Donald Trump called a “Chinese plague.” The nations also tussled over allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang and the crackdown on political freedoms in Hong Kong.
Ties have continued to deteriorate under President Joe Biden, with Xi in March accusing the U.S. of “containment” over China’s technological advances. An alleged Chinese spy balloon was also shot down over American skies recently, prompting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to call off his visit to China.
Taiwan has been another pain point: Meetings between President Tsai Ing-wen’s and major U.S. political leaders have led Beijing to up military pressure on the island. Beijing sees the democracy as part of its territory, and concerns about a potential conflict have been growing.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said he wouldn’t comment on survey results but blamed “anti-China forces” for spreading disinformation about his country, misleading public opinion.
“China is committed to peaceful development,” he said Thursday at a regular press briefing in Beijing. “Our development is an opportunity for the world, not a challenge to anyone.”
The Pew survey found that 47% of respondents think tensions between China and Taiwan are “very serious,” a record high share. Some 62% of those surveyed also cited the China-Russia partnership as a “very serious” issue, too.
Nearly half of the survey’s respondents now see the U.S. as the world’s leading economic power while only about 40% see China on top — a marked change from last year, when opinion was divided equally between the two.
Even so, around eight in 10 Americans said economic competition with China was at least a “somewhat serious” problem.”
—With assistance from Philip Glamann.
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