Hope and Fear
The Committee of 100’s survey—conducted in both the United States and China from August 18-September 19, 2007—reveals that American and Chinese mutual perceptions can be best described as a paradox of hope and fear. On one hand, a majority of citizens in the U.S. and China generally hold positive views of each other; both countries broadly recognize the importance of U.S.-China relations and sense their increasing economic interdependence. On the other hand, a strong majority of Americans view China’s growing economic and military power as a serious or potential threat, and nearly half of the Chinese feel that the U.S. is trying to prevent their country from becoming a great world power.
The C-100 survey examined a broad segment of issue and policy areas of importance to both countries:
- Economics / Trade: Both sides see the most common interests lie in trade. Among Americans, trade is regarded as the most likely area of shared interests, yet it also ranks as the most likely source of conflict.
- Product Safety: Favorability in the U.S. about China has fallen since 2005. This lower opinion of China might partly reflect recent media attention on the Chinese product safety issue. More than two-in-three Americans have reduced their confidence in Chinese-manufactured goods as a result of the food and toy contamination cases emanating from China.
- Taiwan: For wide majorities in China, Taiwan is the greatest concern and the most likely source of conflict between the two nations. In the U.S., less than one-third of the general public, business and opinion leaders agree that the U.S. should intervene on behalf of Taiwan if a declaration of independence by Taiwan leads to military hostilities.
- Environment / Climate Change: The survey also finds that majorities in both the U.S. and China—the world’s two largest producers of Greenhouse Gases that scientists believe are contributing to climate change—worry to some degree about global warming. The Chinese are more likely to be worried than the Americans. Americans rate both governments poorly on their respective performance in handling environmental issues. By contrast, the Chinese rate both governments positively.
- Views on an Emerging China: As compared with C-100’s survey conducted in 2005, U.S. elite groups have largely shifted from thinking about China in terms of its government and more in terms of its emergence as a major player on the global economic stage.
- 2008 Beijing Olympics: Both Americans and Chinese have very positive feelings about Beijing hosting the Games, agreeing that the Games will help improve China’s global image and economy.
- Elites vs. General Public Views: Elites not only differ from the general public in both countries in terms of their views of the other nation, but also tend to misperceive the general public’s views of each other. For the U.S., elite groups underestimate the favorable views of China among the general public, while in China, elite groups overestimate the favorable views of the U.S. among the general public.