Friday, March 2, 2018

Despite Tensions, American Attitudes Towards China Improve

Gallup’s annual survey of American attitudes towards foreign countries has been released. It shows that 53 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of China, versus 45 percent who have an unfavorable view of the country. This marks the first time that the long-running poll has yielded in a majority favorability rating for China since the events of June 1989 nearly 30 years ago.

According to Gallup polling, China's image in the United States has risen 10 points since Xi Jinping assumed leadership of the Communist Party in late 2012.

The result is surprising given rising tensions in the relationship over trade, the South China Sea, and other security concerns, as well as a steady diet of negative news on the human rights front.

The poll also recorded that 11 percent of Americans view China as the greatest threat to the United States, down from 12 percent in 2016. There is significant difference between Republicans and Democrats on this issue, with 15 percent of Republicans versus seven percent of Democrats viewing China as the greatest threat to the United States.

The reasons for China’s uptick in popularity are difficult to discern. Given President Trump’s low approval rating, his bashing of China over trade may help actually help China: “The enemy of your enemy is your friend.” According to the RealClear average of polls on President Trump’s handling of foreign policy, 40.4 percent of Americans approve versus 53.6 percent who disapprove.

It might also be that Americans see China as having helped contain North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs by supporting tough sanctions against the regime. The Gallup poll reveals that 92 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of North Korea, while 51 percent see the reclusive state as America’s biggest enemy, up from 16 percent in 2016.

The poll was conducted February 1-10, 2018. It was based on random telephone interviews with 1,044 adults in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It has a margin of error of plus/minus four percent.