China more keen on trade than US is

Updated: 2015-09-01 11:05

By Chen Weihua in Washington(China Daily USA)

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China more keen on trade than US is

The United States may claim to be a free trade champion, but a new Gallup poll shows that more Chinese support trade than Americans do.

The poll, released on Monday, showed that the majority (69 percent) of Chinese say the greater availability of products and goods from different parts of the world is a good thing for their country.

That contrasts with a Gallup report released in March that shows 58 percent of Americans view foreign trade as an opportunity for economic growth through increased US exports, while 33 percent view it as a threat to the economy from foreign imports. The skepticism was even higher in previous surveys.

On the other hand, only 10 percent of the Chinese polled said foreign trade is a bad thing for their country.

China eclipsed the United States in 2013 as the world's largest trading nation. Its foreign trade has grown exponentially since the country launched its reform and opening-up drive in the late 1970s. Total foreign trade has grown from $14.8 billion in 1977 to $4.3 trillion in 2014.

The Gallup poll, which was conducted among 4,696 adults aged 15 and older in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou in September 2014, also finds that 74 percent percent believe increased trade mostly helps, rather than hurts, domestic companies. And 67 percent say it mostly helps Chinese workers.

While some Western news media have played up stories that foreign companies are less welcome in China, the poll finds that few Chinese object to the presence of foreign companies on Chinese soil.

A total of 63 percent say that foreign companies building factories in China are mostly helping the nation's economy overall. Only 11 percent say it mostly hurts the economy.

According to the Gallup poll, adults younger than age 35 in the three Chinese cities are significantly more likely than their older counterparts to respond positively to all four trade questions.

More than 70 percent of Chinese younger than 35 say increased trade between China and other countries mostly helps workers in that country, compared with 59 percent of those aged 50 and older.

Chinese residents with higher levels of education are also more apt to express the opinion that international trade is beneficial versus those with less formal schooling.

For example, 69 percent of those with an elementary-level education believe international trade mostly helps domestic companies, versus 87 percent of university graduates who say that.

The survey also finds that younger Chinese residents age 15 to 34 are more likely to have an opinion about trade than adults aged 50 and older, who are roughly twice as likely to say they do not know enough about the trade questions to respond to them.

The Gallup poll cited this as a fact that the younger age groups have grown up with international trade, while those who experienced a Chinese centrally planned economic system may still struggle to grasp the concept.

While trade is a less disputable issue in China, it is one of the key issues in the 2016 US presidential campaign. Most leading candidates, except former Florida governor Jeb Bush, have been either opposing or remain cautious in supporting major free trade agreements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that the US is negotiating with 11 other Pacific Rim nations.

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, described the TPP as a gold standard when she was in office, but has refused to publicly endorse the agreement in her current campaign for the White House for fear of upsetting Democratic voters, especially trade unions that are against any free trade agreements.

Billionaire candidate Donald Trump, who is leading the Republican field, has repeatedly described TPP as a "bad, bad deal" for American businesses, workers and taxpayers.

US President Barack Obama has hoped to conclude TPP negotiations and make the partnership a presidential legacy. But critical talks held in Maui, Hawaii, in late July failed amid high hopes.