5 Numbers to Show the U.S. Still Beats China in Popularity

Photo by New Port Geographic

Pew has released a new survey of international opinion regarding the United States and China. It comes as no surprise that both countries have struggled at certain points in time with perception — human rights in China, the use of drones and other military policy in the U.S., Chinese business practices; both countries alike face skepticism over their respect of interests for each member in the global community. As problematic as these things have been, Pew found that the U.S. still has international swagger for the most part, sweeping China in nearly every category.

Here are five statistics that show the U.S. is still more popular globally than China:

1)  U.S. Still No. 1 Economy, Barely

Polled responders across 20 countries said that they still viewed the U.S. as the world’s No. 1 economic power, despite a sharp decline in that perception from the last time Pew produced the poll, in 2008. When asked “Who is the World’s Leading Economic Power?” responders said that the U.S. was the winner by a margin of 41 percent to 34 percent for China. This is a pretty stiff decrease for the land of liberty since the last poll, when Pew found that 47 percent and 20 percent of people felt that way, respectively. From 2008 from 2013, China grew at a rapid pace and the United States floundered, possibly contributing to such a perspective. However, the U.S. recently convinced China to liberalize and reform its economy in a variety of ways, something that may impact future perceptions.

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2) More View U.S. as a Partner

More countries view the U.S. as a partner than China, with poll responders across 39 countries voting in favor of the United States by a margin of 59 percent to 39 percent. While few viewed either country as an enemy, fewer thought of China as someone who was in some way aligned with their country.

The idea is most prominent in the handling of trade agreements, where the U.S. and Europe have undergone talks in the largest trade agreement the world has ever seen, though that is of course not without its road bumps. Leaks by former National Security Agency contractor Eric Snowden and regulatory concerns for both sides loom over the negotiations, but at the same time China finds itself mired in a dispute over tariffs on solar panels with the European Union. This continued feud has sparked fears of a trade war, and is illustrative perhaps of the larger mindset Pew found in its polling.

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3) More Think U.S. Has Their Interests at Heart

While this victory for the U.S. was by the narrowest of margins, more of those polled still felt the U.S. considered their country’s interest at a margin of 37 percent to 27 percent. This represents a larger problem in perception for both countries: namely, that they act unilaterally in their own interest. U.S. foreign policy decisions under both President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush are both viewed in a selfish light. The same problem exists for China, where majorities in 26 of 38 countries questioned said that China considers their interests “not too much or not at all.”

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4) America Still Land of Individual Liberties

The most bolstering for U.S. perception is that America is still viewed as a place that respects the individual rights of its citizens in a much more robust way than China. In only 11 of 39 countries surveyed do at least half think that China respects personal freedoms. This stands in sharp contrast to majorities in 37 of 39 countries that felt the U.S. respected such freedoms. Between all those polled, this worked out to 70 percent of responders feeling that the U.S. respects these freedoms, versus 36 percent who felt similarly about China. While this has been a strong point for the United States in Pew polling, leaks by the now-famous Snowden have shed light on how the U.S. treats the private information of its citizens, a contentious issue within the country, and certainly a damaging factor for U.S. perception abroad.

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5) Regional and Overall Perception Favors U.S.

Overall, more countries and a higher percentage of those polled held a favorable view of the United States. The only notable exception to this was the Middle East, where countries like Pakistan, Jordan, and Egypt held little favorable views for the U.S., with less than 20 percent of people in each country feeling positively. This is a sharp contrast to the remainder of the world, where in places like Italy, Poland, and France, the United States polls substantially higher. This presented an overall favorable rating for the U.S. for 63 percent of total responders, with China coming in at 50 percent.

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