China-US relations good: Survey

Updated: 2012-09-22 01:56

By Chen Weihua in New York (China Daily)

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With the US presidential election less than 50 days away, President Barack Obama and his challenger, former Governor Mitt Romney, have been challenging each other on who is tougher on China.

Romney, a Republican, has accused Obama, a Democrat, of not being firm against China's "cheating" trade practices. Romney's running mate, US Representative Paul Ryan, said China treats Obama "like a doormat".

Obama, meanwhile, has attacked Romney as a pioneer of outsourcing jobs to China. On his election campaign in Ohio this Monday, Obama announced a World Trade Organization case against China's subsidies on auto parts exports.

While the two candidates have drummed up the issue to woo voters, a survey released this week by the Washington-based Pew Research Center shows that nearly nine out of 10 government officials and at least six out of 10 members of the news media, scholars, and business and trade leaders approve of the way Obama is handling foreign policy.

However, Obama receives low marks among retired military officers, with 56 percent disapproving of Obama's performance.

But the other four expert groups endorse the administration's handling of China, including 87 percent of government officials, 72 percent of scholars, 64 percent of business and trade leaders, and 78 percent of the news media.

The survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project, is part of the broader US-China Perceptions Project that Pew has conducted in cooperation with think tanks in China and the US. It surveyed 1,004 adults in the general public and 305 foreign affairs experts.

While presidential candidates talk negatively about China, the survey finds that nearly two-thirds (65 percent) say relations between the two countries are good, and most regard China as a competitor (66 percent of the general public, and 74 to 81 percent of the four expert groups) rather than an enemy (15 percent of the general public and less than 3 percent of any expert group).

On the widespread distrust between the two nations, the survey finds that the majority says the US cannot trust China, and China does not consider the interests of other countries in its foreign policy decisions. China scores lower than Russia in trust among the general public, but higher among the expert groups.

Young people are far more likely than older respondents to see China as trustworthy, with 43 percent of people younger than 30 saying the US can trust China, compared with only 20 percent among those at least 65 years old.

Americans are concerned about China's growing economic clout. About half of the general public says that China's emergence as a world power poses a major threat to the US.

Unlike the general public, US foreign affairs experts are far less concerned about China's rising power. Except for the retired military officers, only about 30 percent consider China's emergence as a world power to be a major threat.

Also, unlike the general public, experts are far more likely to support a strong relationship with China than to support getting tough with China on economic issues.

Across the five expert groups, the economy is most frequently regarded as the best arena for cooperation between the US and China. Many believe that it is in both countries' interests to collaborate on fostering global economic stability and developing equally beneficial interdependence.

As for the two major US political parties, the survey finds that Republicans are much more concerned than Democrats about the effect of China's rise.

On the characteristics associated with Chinese people, 93 percent of the general public describe Chinese as hardworking, 89 percent say competitive, 73 percent say inventive, 57 percent say modern and 49 percent say sophisticated, with 63 percent saying nationalistic. Negative traits scored much lower. The results were 43 percent in aggressiveness, 40 percent in greed, 36 percent in arrogance, 31 percent in selfishness, 28 percent in rudeness and 24 percent in violence.

The survey does not say whether results were affected by election year politics.

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