Chinese like trade, FDI, not acquisitions: Survey

Updated: 2014-09-18 11:53

By Paul Welitzkin in New York(China Daily USA)

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Chinese overwhelmingly believe that trade and foreign investment are good for their country, but don't favor a foreign company acquiring a domestic company or a foreign company building a factory in China, according to a survey.

More than 3,000 Chinese residents were among the global survey of 48,643 people in 44 countries conducted by the US-based Pew Research Center. The survey released on Tuesday was conducted last spring. Pew provided the questions and hired local polling firms to gauge public opinion on trade, foreign investment and related issues. Results reflect the demographic tendencies found in each country regarding gender, income, educational levels and other factors.

Nearly 90 percent of the respondents in China said trade was good and over 60 percent believed that trade increases wages and jobs.

"That is not surprising," said Bruce Stokes, director of global economic attitudes for Pew in an interview with China Daily on Wednesday. "In China where exports, jobs and wages have been rising, people have a favorable view of trade. However in mature or developed economies like the US, only 20 percent said trade increased jobs."

As for Americans, they were among those least likely to say trade creates jobs or improves wages, according to the survey. It found that 50 percent of the respondents said trade destroys jobs, while just 20 percent said it creates them.

Chinese like trade, FDI, not acquisitions: Survey

Americans were far more likely - 45 percent to 17 percent- to say trade reduces wages, instead of raising them, according to the survey.

The median view of trade from all 44 countries in the survey found that 81 percent think trade is good, 54 percent said trade creates jobs, 45 percent said trade increases wages. But only 26 percent said trade results in lower prices.

In China, less than 20 percent thought trade produced lower prices.

"What this means is that one of the main economic arguments for increased trade - that it lowers prices - is simply not believed. Either people don't realize it or they haven't experienced it," said Stokes.

Although the Chinese overwhelmingly support trade and foreign investment, they appear to draw a line when it comes to foreign firms buying Chinese companies. Only 39 percent of the Chinese surveyed approved of foreign companies acquiring a Chinese firm.

"The Chinese are very wary of outsiders buying a domestic company. And that is found across just about all the demographic groups in the survey. Just 39 percent of Chinese men and women thought foreign companies buying a Chinese company were good. Only 30 percent of low income Chinese thought it was good and just 43 percent of upper income Chinese thought it was good," said Stokes.

The Chinese are not alone when it comes to foreigners buying domestic companies. Just 28 percent of the US respondents said it was good. "The Japanese and Germans are also quite leery of outside firms buying domestic companies," Stokes said.

When asked whether foreign companies building new factories in China was good, the response improved to a little more than 50 percent.

Stokes said governments trying to secure political support for major trade deals face will need to address some of the concerns that are found in the survey.

"Governments in developed countries like the US, France and Italy need to understand that while a majority said they support trade and foreign investment, most don't see how trade and foreign investment benefits them personally. They have not experienced more jobs or higher salaries," said Stokes.

"In emerging economies where wages and jobs have been increasing and China is a perfect example, there is less negativity on trade. But what will happen in China if there is a slowdown - will the Chinese become as skeptical on trade as other countries?"