Vice President Joe Biden (right) with China's then Vice President Xi Jinping at the International Studies Learning Center in Los Angeles, February 17, 2012. Photo credit: Xinhua
As Vice President Joe Biden arrives in Beijing for talks with China’s leaders over a number of nettlesome issues, a just-released poll shows that Americans disapprove of the Obama administration’s China policy by a wide margin.
Only 30 percent of Americans approve of the way President Obama is dealing with China, compared with 52 percent who disapprove, according to a poll of 2,003 Americans conducted from October 30 to November 6, 2013, by the Pew Research Center in association with the Council on Foreign Relations. Obama’s handling of relations with Russia, Iran, and even Afghanistan, as well as his approach to issues like terrorism and climate change, all received higher approval ratings. The president’s handling of the situation in Syria—seen among Americans as Obama’s greatest foreign policy failure—won the same 30 percent approval rating as his China policy.
The results reveal a sharp 24-point shift in public opinion in the space of half a year. Immediately following the Sunnylands Summit between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping on June 10, 2013, a Pew poll showed that a narrow plurality of Americans approved of the way relations with China were being handled (39 percent versus 37 percent who disapproved).
The most recent poll, released on December 3, was taken before China’s unilateral declaration of an air defense identification zone in late November, a move viewed as provocative by the United States and allied governments.
Views of China itself were also largely negative. Nearly a quarter of Americans now have a “very unfavorable” opinion of China, the highest ever reading for this metric, which has been recorded for the past nine years. Thirty-three percent of Americans now have a favorable view of China versus 55 percent who have an unfavorable view—the widest gap since at least 2005. (In 2011, 51 percent of Americans had a favorable view of China.) A mere 23 percent of Republicans, who now control the House of Representatives and who are poised to make gains in the 2014 midterm elections, have a favorable view of China.
China and Iran tied for first place as the country that “represents the greatest danger to the United States.” Both were so named by 16 percent of Americans polled. Just over half of Americans continue to see China’s emergence as a world power as a major threat, while about a fifth consider China an “adversary.”
“The sharp deterioration in approval for the Obama administration’s policy towards China and the largely negative views Americans have toward that country underline the importance of the vice president’s visit to Beijing,” said Dui Hua Executive Director John Kamm. “Leaders of both countries need to stop mouthing platitudes about how good the relationship is and start effectively addressing the fundamental problems causing such deep disquiet among the American people—an increasingly assertive Chinese military, widespread reports of human rights violations, and a yawning trade gap seen by many as a principal cause of America’s high unemployment rate.”