American attitudes toward China are becoming less positive as Sino–U.S. trade tensions escalate, a new Pew Research Center study reveals.
Overall, 38 percent of Americans said they have a favorable opinion about China, compared to 44 percent in 2017, according to the survey, which was conducted from May 14 to June 15 among 1,500 adults.
Most expressed concern about China’s economic strength. When asked whether they were more concerned about China’s economic or military strength, 58 percent believed the former was a bigger threat. That’s up 6 percent from a year ago.
When asked about a set of issues, economic concerns also dominated, with 62 percent of those polled saying the large amount of U.S. debt held by China is a “very serious” problem, while 27 percent indicated that it’s “somewhat serious.”
As to cyberattacks from China, 58 percent called that a “very serious” threat, with 29 percent saying “somewhat serious.” This issue has been a subject of growing concern among Americans since 2012—when the Pew began conducting the survey—as opposed to economic issues, which have generally made fewer Americans worried because of an improved economy.
The downward trend on economic issues ended in the past year, as trade tensions were ignited and escalated into a full-blown trade war in July as China and the United States put tit-for-tat tariffs into effect.
In the past year, cyberattacks from China, including some state-backed actors, have continually been detected. Most recently, a cybersecurity report revealed that hackers at Tsinghua University—a prestigious and regime-friendly research university—spied on American entities during trade negotiations between China and the United States from April to June.
The next highest concerns after cyberattacks were “China’s impact on the global environment” and “loss of U.S. jobs to China,” both with 51 percent rating them as “very serious” problems. On human rights, 49 percent deemed China’s record “very serious.”
Americans were least concerned about China’s territorial disputes. Only 34 percent rated that issue as “very serious,” while 22 percent said they were concerned about tensions between Taiwan and China.
Responses tended to split along the lines of political leanings: Republicans and Republican-leaning independents tended to be more worried about economic issues, while Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents were concerned about China’s effect on the environment.