How do citizens in a rising China view the world? How do their views differ from those of Americans? And how do Americans and Chinese view each other? Andrew Kohut and Victor Yuan drew on public opinion surveys conducted by their respective organizations to identify similarities and differences in the international outlooks of American and Chinese citizens, and consider the implications for policy-makers in both countries.

Dr. Yuan noted that Chinese generally have positive attitudes about the United States when it comes to its educational system, music and films, science and technology sectors, managements systems and commercial brands. But Chinese often take a negative view when it comes to policy issues, where they perceive the United States as acting hegemonic or as the world’s policeman. These perceptions are frequently tied to the way they view the U.S. president, which, in turn, is related to the Taiwan issue. For instance, when President Clinton announced the “Three No’s” during his visit to China, his popularity in China increased. When President Bush was in China, he stated support for the one-China policy but added that the rights of the people on Taiwan must also be respected, and his numbers went down.

Dr. Yuan said that the current generation of Chinese leaders sees some value to polling. First, since they need to demonstrate that they are qualified and capable, polling data can be used as an indicator of whether their policies are seen as effective. Also, this generation will take a more incremental approach to change, rather than implementing the sweeping reforms of Deng Xiaoping or Zhu Rongji. They will be more likely to experiment on a smaller basis and then scale up; polling can be a useful tool for

Data from Pew’s Global Attitudes Project shows global unease with world powers, Mr. Kohut said, not just the United States. He characterized attitudes about China as multidimensional and mixed. There is concern in many countries about China’s growing military power. Views about China in neighboring countries tend to be more positive, though there are exceptions: Japanese views about China have grown more negative and South Korea and India are worried about China’s economic power. In Africa and Latin America, respondents see evidence of China’s growing influence in those regions. In the United States, Mr. Kohut agreed that there is a disconnect between the ways that elites and the general public view China. In geopolitical terms, China is not really on the radar screen of American citizens, though policy elites have ongoing concerns about cross-Strait relations and China’s military strength.

December 11, 2007 (All day)
Andrew Kohut
Victor Yuan

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