A new survey of wealthy nations finds favorable views rising for the US while declining for China

Nov 6, 2023, 9:01 AM

FILE - United States and Chinese flags are set up before a meeting between Treasury Secretary Janet...

FILE - United States and Chinese flags are set up before a meeting between Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, on July 8, 2023. Public opinions in 24 countries, mostly rich nations, have grown more favorable of the United States than of China, according to the latest survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center.The gap in favorability of the world's two largest economies widened after views of the U.S. rebounded since President Joe Biden took office in 2021, the report found. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, Pool, File)

(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, Pool, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Public opinions in 24 countries — mostly rich nations — have grown more favorable of the United States than of China, according to the latest survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center.

The gap in favorability of the world’s two largest economies widened after views of the U.S. rebounded since President Joe Biden took office in 2021, the report found. Favorable views of both countries fell in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, but the ratings for China remained low during the latest survey, the Pew center said, “leading to some of the largest gaps in these views we have seen in our polling.”

The report, released Monday, comes as the two countries are intensely competing for global influence. President Xi Jinping wants China to be respected and trusted around the world, while Biden has made it a priority to mend relationships with U.S. allies.

“This year, overall views of the United States are much more positive than views of China in most places surveyed,” the report said. “But this has not always been the case in our nearly two decades of favorability polling, and views of the countries have fluctuated alongside views of their leaders.”

The 2019 survey recorded a median of 55% across 22 countries showing favorable views of the U.S., compared to a median of 39% of China.

In 2020, when Pew conducted surveys in a much smaller set of countries because of the pandemic, medians of 38% and 25% had favorable views of the U.S. and China, respectively. Of the same countries in 2023, medians of 58% and 21% had positive views of the U.S. and China, respectively. Medians are only of the 10 countries surveyed in both years, exclusive of the U.S. and Australia, Pew’s research analysts said.

In the latest survey, the gaps were most significant in Poland, Japan and South Korea, where more than 70% of the respondents rated the U.S. positively, compared with fewer than 30% who viewed China favorably, said Pew, which conducted nationally representative surveys in 24 countries in 2023.

Japan and South Korea, neighbors of China, have had a historically tense relationship with each other. In a diplomatic breakthrough, Biden held a trilateral summit with Japan’s prime minister and South Korea’s president at Camp David in August, hailed by supporters as forging a strong partnership countering China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

The differences in favorable public opinions of the U.S. and China narrowed in middle-income countries such as Indonesia, South Africa and Mexico, and China overtook the U.S. in favorability in Nigeria, where both countries were highly favored, the report said.

Middle-income countries accounted for about one third of the countries surveyed by Pew, and no low-income country was included in the latest study.

The center said it was unable to conduct in-person surveys in less developed countries during the pandemic but planned to gauge public opinions in those countries when travel becomes easier. “In the months ahead, we intend to continue expanding our country coverage to a more economically and geographically diverse set of countries,” said Laura Clancy, a research analyst at Pew.

In China, the leadership has touted that the country has gained more friends and that friendships have become stronger around the world, typically among developing nations. Beijing’s massive global infrastructure building scheme, known as the Belt and Road Initiative, is credited with bringing economic benefits to foreign countries and winning friends for Beijing, according to China’s state media, contrary to Western criticism that those projects could saddle host countries with debt and harm the environment.

The views of the U.S. have shifted over time alongside changes to the presidency, Clancy said.

In 2023, a median of 56% across 22 countries had confidence in Biden, compared to 19% in Xi. In 2019, medians of the same 22 countries having confidence Donald Trump, then the U.S. president, and Xi were 31% and 28%, respectively.

In the latest survey, 83% people in Poland expressed confidence in Biden, compared to 8% in Xi, registering the widest gap of 75 percentage points, the report said. The spread was at least 50 points in countries such as Germany, Japan and Sweden. The gap narrowed in middle-income countries, but still more had more confidence in Biden and Xi, the report said.

“These gaps in views of the American and Chinese leaders reflect both souring attitudes toward Xi in high-income countries and greater confidence in Biden – particularly compared with his predecessor, Donald Trump,” the report said.

In 2007, the gaps between the U.S. and China in terms of likeability were narrower under different leaders in both countries.

Then, a median of 53% across 15 countries reported favorable views of the U.S., compared to a median of 43% with favorable views of China. In 2023, medians of 59% and 27% across the same countries had favorable views of the U.S. and of China, respectively, according to Pew.

That was near the end of the George W. Bush presidency in 2007, when confidence in Bush was limited, and China’s then-President Hu Jintao received more positive ratings, the center said.

In other results, the Pew polls have found:

— The surveyed countries were more likely to see the U.S. as interfering in the affairs of other countries than China.

— Most countries said the U.S. accounted for their country’s interests more so than China. Israel led the pack with a 65-percentage-point difference.

— The U.S. got higher marks than China for contributing to global peace and stability. The difference was greatest in Japan, where 79% said the U.S. contributed at least a fair amount to international stability, compared to 14% who said the same of China.

— Most considered the U.S. to be the leading economy. In South Korean, 83% of the respondents said the U.S. was the world’s leading economic power, compared to only 8% who said China was the leading power. Italy was on the other end of the spectrum, with 55% of the respondents said China was the leading economy, compared to 31% who would give that title to the U.S.

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A new survey of wealthy nations finds favorable views rising for the US while declining for China