by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Sept 18, 2012
Despite the tough talk on China in the US election, most Americans support a strong relationship with the Asian power and do not view its rise as a major concern, a survey said Tuesday.
The Pew Research Center poll found often contradictory sentiments among the US public who considered the Chinese to be hardworking but at the same time lacked trust in China and voiced concern over its economic strength.
Some 56 percent of the public said the United States should "be tough" with China on economic or trade issues. But nearly two-thirds believed ties were in good shape and 55 percent supported a "strong relationship" with China.
The public did not rank China high on a list of potential threats to the United States, putting it below Islamic extremism, the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs, global financial instability and drug-linked violence in Mexico.
"On the whole, they don't see China as an enemy and they don't think relations are bad," said Richard Wike, associate director of the Pew Global Attitudes Project.
"But they are concerned and they believe that China's growth -- particularly its economic growth -- is a threat to the US on issues like jobs, debt and the trade deficit."
Only 26 percent of the general public said China could be trusted to a significant extent. Just one-third believed that China considered other countries' interests in its foreign policy, while the vast majority thought the United States took others into account.
Both President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney have taken aim at China as they campaign for November 6 elections, with Obama seeking World Trade Organization action against Chinese auto subsidies.
Romney has vowed a much tougher line on China if he wins, including immediately declaring that China is manipulating its currency to make its exports artificially cheaper.
The survey found that an overwhelming 93 percent of the US general public considered Chinese people to be hardworking, more than what Americans said about themselves.
But only 28 percent of Americans said the Chinese were generous, compared with 78 percent who said so about their own country.
Yet the US public was not always flattering about itself. Majorities described American people as arrogant, selfish and rude, traits that most did not say about Chinese people.
The Pew Research Center showed gaps in perceptions of China between experts and the general public. Among experts -- scholars, government workers, businesspeople, journalists and retired military -- 84 percent supported a "strong relationship" with China, far more than the public.
Human rights were more important to the general public, with more than half saying that the United States should promote improvements in China's record.
Some 36 percent of the public said that the United States should advocate for more freedom in Tibet, a stance taken by just nine percent of businesspeople and eight percent of scholars.
Consistent with other recent studies, the survey found gaps by age, with younger Americans holding more positive feelings toward China.
The Pew Research Center surveyed 1,004 members of the general public and 305 foreign experts in the study, which was conducted in cooperation with think tanks including the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
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