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As China's Economy Grows, Its Popularity Sinks

Most people surveyed think China will become an economic superpower, but its popularity is dropping.

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Although people around the world think China's economy is on the rise, the country's popularity is not having the same improvement in the public eye, according to a recent global survey by the Pew Research Center.

In the survey published Thursday, researchers found that the United States has a more favorable global image than China. Although views were varied in different countries and regions, people overall worldwide see the United States as more of a partner, think America is more willing than China to consider other countries' interests and that the country has more respect for other people's freedom, the survey found.

Of the nearly 38,000 people surveyed in 39 countries, 63 percent had a favorable view of the United States, while 50 percent said the same of China.

Many people also felt that the United States was strong in respecting others' personal freedoms. A median of 70 percent felt the American government respects the personal freedoms of its people, while only 36 percent said so of China.

"Even in many nations where opposition to American foreign policy is widespread and overall ratings for the U.S. are low, majorities or pluralities believe individual rights are respected in the U.S.," the report says.

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And although not many people saw either country as an enemy – 8 percent saw America as an enemy and 10 percent said China was an enemy – the United States fared much better in that respect. Nearly 60 percent of respondents said they saw the United States as a partner, whereas only 39 percent felt that way about China. But in certain parts of the world, China's popularity was still higher than the United States.

"As has been the case in recent years, America's image is the most negative in parts of the Muslim world," the survey says.

 

In Pakistan, for example, only 11 percent of those surveyed had a favorable view of the United States, whereas 81 percent said they saw China as favorable. The case was similar in Jordan, Egypt and Turkey, where 14 percent, 16 percent and 21 percent of people respectively favored the United States. Last year, only 15 percent of Turks saw the United States favorably, the survey says.

But many across the globe have seen a shift in the balance of economic powers since the financial crisis in 2008. While America's status as a leading economic power has continued to decline, those who see China as the top country has increased. In 2008, 20 percent of respondents said China was the leading economic power in the world. That figure had increased to 34 percent in the most recent survey.

In 23 of the countries surveyed, most say China already has or will soon replace the United States as the top superpower. In only six countries, it was the consensus that China would never replace the United States.

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"This trend has been especially apparent among some of America's closest allies in Western Europe," the survey says. "However, even in many countries where America is still seen as the top economic power, most believe China will someday become the leading overall superpower."

Although America's status as an economic superpower seems to be slipping, the country still has an advantage over China in some countries due to its "soft power" in scientific and technological achievements.

"The appeal of U.S. soft power is generally stronger today in Latin America and Africa than it was during the final years of the Bush administration," the survey says."

But both countries still face a challenge to improve their image in some respects. People worldwide still believe that both the United States and China act uniliaterally in international affairs, and are concerned with the military power of both countries.

"China's growing military strength is viewed with trepidation in neighboring [countries]," the report says. "Meanwhile, the Obama administration's use of drone strikes faces broad opposition – half or more in 31 of 39 countries disapprove of U.S. drone attacks against extremist groups."