Survey Findings: Americans Reluctant to Trust China But Recognize Opportunity in Building Ties

June 7, 2013
June 7, 2013 CHICAGO - President Obama and President Xi Jinping meet today in California to privately discuss the US-China relationship. The importance of this to the Obama administration and its pivot to Asia is obvious. According to several recent public opinion surveys, Americans also recognize China’s growing influence and emphasize the importance of friendly engagement with China. But many also recognize that over the longer term China’s rise could be a negative development for US competitiveness.

In this report, Dina Smeltz, senior fellow on public opinion and foreign policy, summarizes findings on American views of China from the 2012 Chicago Council Survey, 2012-2013 Pew Research surveys, the 2012 German Marshall Fund Transatlantic Trends, and the 2012 Gallup poll.

Key survey findings include:
  • Americans sense that China’s influence in the world is increasing while US influence is decreasing, although more Americans still think that the US had an edge in 2012. In terms of economic strength, an equal number of Americans select the US as the current the global economic leader as select China.
  • China’s emergence as a world power does not invoke a great sense of threat for Americans, but many are concerned about the impact that China’s economic growth could have/has had on the American economy. Half say that if China’s economy grows as large as the US economy, it would have both positive and negative effects.
  • Even with some concerns about US debt to China and China’s economic strength, majorities of Americans prefer that the US work on friendly engagement and strengthening ties with China.

Download the report, which includes details on these additional findings:
  • More Americans Now View Asia as More Important than Europe
  • Americans Expect China’s Influence to Grow; More Now Express Negative Views of the Country
  • China’s Economic Power: Both an Opportunity and a Challenge
  • Majority Support Friendly Engagement with China

Notes on methods:
The Chicago Council Survey was conducted online, while the other surveys were telephone polls. This difference in methodology could account for some of the varying responses on certain questions. For more on methodology, read the full summary.