From a new nationwide poll by Pew Research Center (source: WSJ):
A new nationwide poll by the Pew Research Center finds Americans considering Asia more important by a 47% to 37% margin. In 1993, the balance of public opinion was the opposite: 50% considered Europe most important, 31% Asia. Questioned today about their interest in news from various countries, 34% of Americans say they are very interested in news from China, while far fewer say the same about France (6%), Germany (11%), Italy (11%) and even Great Britain (17%).
Public interest in China is not just academic. A large majority correctly identifies China as the country that holds the most American debt. Growing numbers of Americans also see China—incorrectly—as the world's leading economic power. Pew's latest survey finds 47% of respondents citing China as the world's top economic power, and only 31% correctly citing the U.S. In early 2008, the balance of opinion was the opposite: 41% named the U.S., while 30% named China.
While there is alarm, there isn't quite panic over China's growing economic power. A Pew Global Attitudes survey last year found that although 47% of Americans consider China's growing economic power a bad thing, larger numbers of Western Europeans see it that way. In France 67% share the view, and in Germany 58% do.
Americans have two seemingly conflicting views on China policy. Fifty-three percent think the U.S. should get tougher with China on trade issues, but nearly as many (58%) say that U.S. policy should try to build stronger relations between the two countries. Many fewer want to scold China about its human rights (40%) or environmental policies (39%).
The bottom line is that Americans don't want to demonize China, but they have reservations about the effects of U.S.-Chinese trade. Few see China as an adversary, but most see it as a problem that needs addressing. Worries notwithstanding, most Americans for now continue to hold a favorable view of the rising Asian giant.