China Not Yet Seen as a Threat by the American Public

October 19, 2018

By: Karl Friedhoff, Fellow, Public Opinion and Asia Policy; Craig Kafura, Research Associate

As the United States and China continue to engage in the tit-for-tat trade war that has unfolded throughout 2018, the Trump administration is raising alarms more broadly about the threat China poses to the United States. Administration critiques of Chinese behavior fit within an emerging consensus among the foreign policy establishment that a harder line on China is a necessity. The Trump administration’s active efforts to portray China as a bad international actor will further heighten tensions between the two countries, but as of yet, the American public does not yet see China as an urgent threat to national security.

Key Findings

  • The public does not see China’s rise as a threat: only four in ten (39%) say that the development of China as a world power is a critical threat to US vital interests.
  • Seven in ten Americans (72%) are either very concerned (31%) or somewhat concerned (41%) that a trade war with China would hurt their local economy.
  • Minorities of Americans support the use of US troops in conflicts involving China, either in the case of a conflict with Japan over disputed islands (41%) or if China invaded Taiwan (35%).
  • Two-thirds of Americans prefer to strengthen ties with traditional allies Japan and South Korea (66%) over developing a new partnership with China (26%).

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