Americans Increasingly View China as an Economic Threat

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The American view of China has had its ups and downs over the years, but now, even with the Chinese government making promises of major reform at the end of last year, U.S. sentiment towards China is not looking terribly friendly — at least according to a February 6-9 Gallup poll. It’s possible it has something to do with the extent to which China is an economic threat. Back in 1979, when Gallup first polled Americans on China, American citizens were considered easily the more economically successful nation between the two, with a GDP under 10 percent of the U.S.

Now, with China more commonly believed to be the up-and-coming economy despite the problems it faces, 53 percent of Americans reported that they viewed China in a “Very/Mostly unfavorable” light. While the U.S. has a GDP that is nearly two times the GDP of China, 52 percent of Americans consider China as the leading economic power in the world, with 31 percent considering the U.S. the leading economic power, and 16 percent saying the same of either Japan, India, Russia, or the EU. This is a rather recent and distinct change from back in 2000, when 10 percent felt that China was a leading economic power, and 65 percent felt that the U.S. held that position. The change predictably came sometime leading up to and following the U.S. housing market crash and the start of the Great Recession.

According to Gallup, a majority of the U.S. sees China as a friend rather than an enemy nation, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t concerns over both its economy and military. The power of China’s economy was considered a critical threat to Americans’ “vital interests” by 52 percent, with only 10 percent saying it was not important. Military power falls beneath economic concerns, with 46 percent labeling it as a critical threat, compared to 11 percent who said it was not important, and 41 percent who labeled it as, “important but not critical.”

This puts a majority still considering the military forces of China as a significant risk to the U.S., proving that military and political actions within the nation continue to have a hefty influence on American opinion, as we saw in 1989 during the Tiananmen Square protests, which, according to Gallup, led to favorable ratings dropping to 34 percent and unfavorable ratings hitting 54 percent.

China’s economic reform plan — decided upon late last year for 2014 — has the nation working to transition its economy from one that is based primarily on investment to one based on consumption. Included in the plan is governmental urgings to improve departmental delegations and to streamline administrative activity. There’s also an emphasis on reigning in local debt and maintaining fiscal stability while seeking development and change to the economic framework within China. Shadow banking has been a major issue for the nation, though some, such as Forbes’ Asian markets expert, James Gruber, have praised policy changes, such as “loosening the one-child policy, abolishing the controversial ‘re-education’ labor camps, and introducing steps toward an independent judiciary.”

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