Less than six months after Chinese president Xi Jinping’s state visit to the United States—a visit intended to improve American perceptions of China—the percentage of Americans who hold an unfavorable view of China rose in 2016, according to the Gallup Organization. For the ninth year in a row, at least half of Americans hold an unfavorable view of China; 52 percent held that view in early February 2016, versus 44 percent who held a favorable view. In 2015 the percentages were 50 and 44, respectively. Gallup conducted its annual survey on American attitudes towards foreign countries earlier this month.
The percentage of Americans who consider China to be America’s greatest enemy remained steady at 12 percent.
Americans who see China’s economic power as a critical or important threat to the United States rose marginally from 84 percent of those polled in 2015 to 86 percent in 2016, while the percentage who see China’s military power to be a critical or important threat was 87 percent—the same percentage recorded the last time the question was asked in 2014.
Since 2011, at least 50 percent of Americans have viewed China as the world’s leading economic power, but this year the percentage dropped to exactly 50 percent, while the percentage holding the view that the US is the leading economic power rose to 37 percent from 31 percent in 2015. Perhaps the most surprising result of the poll is the response of Americans to the question “Who will be the leading economic power in 20 years?” In 2012, the last time the question was posed, 46 percent responded China and 38 percent responded the US. In 2016, 44 percent believe the US will be the leading power in 2026; only 34 percent predict China will then be the leading power.