China, US need to improve trust

Updated: 2012-04-21 16:32

By Wang Jun in Los Angeles (

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A new US-China public perceptions opinion survey was released at the Committee of 100 (C-100) annual conference on April 20 in Pasadena.

The survey found that "despite growing mistrust, citizens from both nations acknowledge the need for improved political and business cooperation and diplomacy."

A large majority of American and Chinese public and elites agree China will have a leading role in the Asia Pacific region 20 years from now. China will have the most influence over the global economy in the next 20 years by a smaller-margin consensus. The US will remain the world's leading superpower over the next 20 years, according to US and Chinese elites.

"We will use this study to advocate for constructive relationship-building between the peoples of the US and China, and to further promote education, diplomacy, and leadership development," said Dominic Ng, C-100 chairman and Southern California-based East West Bank's chairman and CEO.

Favorable opinion has increased among all US respondent groups since 2007, particularly among business leaders, from 54 percent to 72 percent.

Unfavorable opinion decreased significantly in the US since 2007 across all groups: the public from 45 percent to 37 percent, opinion leaders from 43 percent to 35 percent, and business leaders from 41 percent to 27 percent.

On the China side, while favorable opinion among the general public has held steady since 2007 at around 60 percent, unfavorable opinion has increased slightly, by 4.6 percent. Favorable opinion among opinion leaders and business leaders remains at over 90 percent, although the level decreased slightly, by 3.8 percent, among business leaders since 2007.

Both US and Chinese elite groups misestimated the general public's opinion of each other. US elites believe about 20 percent of the US public views China favorably. In fact, 55 percent of the public report favorable views of China. Business leaders in China believe about 82 percent of the public holds favorable views of the US. However, the survey found about 59 percent of the public report favorable views of the US.

Regarding initial thoughts about each other, culture, history, food and the Great Wall are the first things that come to mind for the American public. And, war and the military are the first thoughts that come to mind for the Chinese public, which is consistent with a survey that C-100 did in 2007.

After visiting each other, approximately two-thirds of elites from the US report improved opinions about China, and about 28 percent of the Chinese public reports less favorable impressions after their visit to the US.

The survey revealed mistrust between the two countries. "Over 50 percent of the American public and elites believe the US should trust China ‘little" or ‘not at all.' Over 50 percent of the Chinese public and elite think the US is not trustworthy."

The study concludes that improving international trust through greater public diplomacy, educational exchange, and leadership initiatives will be instrumental in effectively easing international tensions and nurturing common interests.

The survey was conducted by Harris Interactive in the US and Horizon Research Consultancy Group in China.

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