Despite growing mistrust between the two nations, citizens in both the U.S. and China acknowledge the need for improved political and business cooperation and diplomacy. This was the key finding of the Committee’s 2012 Mirror Survey, which was released during the 21st Annual Conference in April.
The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive in the United States and Horizon Research Consultancy Group in China, and titled “U.S.-China Public Perceptions Opinion Survey 2012,” compares the views of the American and Chinese public and elites (business and opinion leaders). It measures significant shifts in American and Chinese attitudes since 2007 on high-impact economic, political, and security issues, including bilateral trade and investment, U.S. military presence in the Asia Pacific, and China’s emergence as a military and economic global power.
- The Chinese public (58.4%) believes China will overtake the U.S. and become the world’s leading superpower in twenty years. In contrast, Chinese business and opinion leaders are skeptical about China’s global role, with only 37% and 23.1%, respectively, considering superpower status a likely scenario.
- While the Chinese elite and the U.S. public still believe the U.S. will be the leading superpower in twenty years, U.S. confidence in its global role since 2007 has dropped to 47% from 69% among U.S. business leaders, and to 55% from 62% among U.S. opinion leaders.
- Chinese elites and the public are increasingly willing to criticize their own government openly and feel much more negatively than they did in 2007. Chinese business leaders (54.3%) negatively rate the Chinese government’s handling of bilateral relations with the U.S.—up from 19%; opinion leaders give a 74.5% negative rating—up from 37%; and the public gives a 36.3% rating—up from 27%.
- The U.S. is doing a fair to poor job of handling relations with China, according to the majority of both countries’ publics and elites. Reaction is most negative among Chinese elites, with 71.8% of opinion leaders rating the U.S. as fair to poor—up from 66% in 2007—while 66.5% of business leaders give a low rating—up from 50%.
Military Power and Trust
- Over 80% of U.S. business and opinion leaders consider China’s emergence as a military power a potential or serious threat. Roughly 40% of all Chinese respondents think the U.S. military presence in the Asia Pacific region will only create tension among stakeholders.
- Over 50% of the American public and elites believe the U.S. should trust China “little” or “not at all.” Over 50% of the Chinese public and elite think the United States is not trustworthy.
Trade and Social Issues
- Approximately two-thirds of U.S. business and opinion leaders see China’s emergence as a global economic power as a serious or potential threat to the U.S. In contrast, 45% of China’s elites see China as an economic partner with the U.S. rather than a threat. Just under one-third of U.S. elites view China as an economic partner.
- Poor protection of intellectual property rights ranks first among U.S. business leaders’ top concerns about doing business in China (81%, up from 69%). In contrast, less than half of China’s business leaders consider intellectual property rights protection policy to have a negative impact on foreign investment.
- U.S. and Chinese elites each think the media of the other country does not report accurately on its counterpart, with over 55% of U.S. elites and 60% of China elites holding this belief. More than 50% of both countries’ publics are not convinced they are getting accurate information about the other country from their media.
The study concludes that improving international trust through greater public diplomacy, educational exchange, and leadership initiatives will be instrumental in effectively easing bilateral tensions and nurturing common interests. Survey Project Co-Chairs Frank Wu, Charlie Woo, and Jeremy Wu led the project and presented the survey’s key findings at the April annual conference. Their presentation can be viewed online.
For more information and to access an interactive version of the study, please visit the. survey website. Follow us on Twitter:@Committee100, and learn more about the survey via our hashtag: #C100Survey.