Half of Americans still see China’s rise as threat, survey suggests

Majority also think US should be world’s sole military superpower, according to poll

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 May, 2016, 1:25pm
UPDATED : Friday, 06 May, 2016, 4:32pm

Half of Americans still believe China’s emergence as a world power is a major threat to the United States, according to a new survey released by the Pew Research Centre on Friday.

But Islamic State, refugees fleeing from Iraq and Syria and climate change were all ranked as more worrying in the survey, which polled more than 4,000 United States citizens.

Insecurities and bluster: the roots of distrust between China and the US

In the latest of a series of surveys published by Pew, attitudes towards China remain negative but stable as tensions in the South China Sea continue to pit the two superpowers against each other.

“You’re talking about people in a country that’s used to being number one, that like to be number one and China’s clearly challenging that number one position,” said David Zweig, an expert on China and international relations at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

About 55 per cent of United States citizens interviewed in the survey said they wanted the United States to remain the sole military superpower in the world, including 67 per cent of Republican voters.

In addition, almost a quarter of interviewees said they saw China as an adversary to the United States, the same number as Russia. Both numbers haven’t changed much in recent years, according to Pew.

Zweig said a quarter of Americans seeing China as an adversary wasn’t unsurprising, but it could be a problem in the future.

“It’s a problem when people tend not to trust each other, when they see negatives even when there aren’t necessarily negatives,” he said.

“I think that Chinese clearly believe America wants to contain China’s rise ... and if you ask a lot of Americans they see China as a bully, as a threat.”

Xi and Obama find common ground on nuclear security, climate change

Zweig said that according to previous Pew surveys, attitudes to China in the United States had started to sour in 2012 following territorial tensions in the South China Sea and President Xi Jinping taking office.

The Pew survey was conducted between April 4 and 19 this year.

Fifty per cent of respondents said China’s emergence as a world power was a major threat, 80 per cent cited Islamic State as a major fear and 55 per cent said they were threatened by the number of refugees leaving Syria and Iraq.