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Survey Says
China Gains Ground in Latest Pew Poll

Depending on how you look at it, the latest Pew Global survey presents a glass-half-full narrative of enduring American influence, or a glass-half-empty narrative about declining American prestige. The good news? The U.S. is still considered the world’s top economic power by a comfortable plurality of the countries surveyed. The bad news? China is catching up, including among top American allies in Europe. More from Pew:

Across 38 nations polled by Pew Research Center, a median of 42% say the U.S. is the world’s leading economy, while 32% name China. […]

But in seven of the 10 European Union nations in the study, China is considered the leading economic power (it is tied with the U.S. for the top spot in Italy). A plurality in Russia also holds this view. And China leads the U.S. by a two-to-one margin in Australia – a longtime U.S. ally, but also a country whose top trading partner, by far, is China.

Those trend lines are certainly dismaying for those who worry about the U.S. losing its soft power edge to China. But the growing recognition of China’s economic might doesn’t necessarily translate into growing respect for its leadership or political model. Tellingly, 53 percent of those surveyed expressed “no confidence” in Xi Jinping’s ability to do the right thing in the world, and only 25 percent of respondents believed that the Chinese government respected its citizens’ personal freedoms—compared to 54 percent who held this view about the United States.

If value judgments about China trend negative globally, though, they are quite positive in significant swathes of sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Publics in countries like Nigeria or Peru, where Beijing has made significant strategic investments, positively embrace China:

The most favorable views of China are found in sub-Saharan Africa – a region where China has invested heavily in infrastructure and development. Positive opinions surpass negative ones by a more than four-to-one margin in Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzania. […]

In Latin America, positive sentiment toward China is highest in Peru. Roughly half in Brazil, Venezuela and Chile also have positive feelings about the Asian economic giant.

This is a significant finding, suggesting that China’s massive investments in Africa and Latin America have changed some hearts and minds in its favor. But that conclusion does not apply in every case. In Ghana, for instance, favorable views of China have dropped 31 percent since 2015, as tensions have sparked over China’s intrusive involvement in its mining sector. Where they once welcomed China as an economic lifeline, Ghanians are beginning to resent China’s outsized role in their economy: a cautionary tale for those in Beijing who assume that throwing money at underdeveloped countries is enough to endear their populations to China.

Overall, it was a better year than not for China’s global stature, but this hardly implies unstoppable momentum towards global leadership. History is long, and unpredictable.

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  • Gary Hemminger

    What a stupid survey. All this shows is that our Euro allies (so called) don’t like Trump. How can one country that is so much higher in GDP be lower in “economic clout” than a country with much lower GDP? Doesn’t make sense except as a favorability survey. Why do we keep getting this news that isn’t really news, just peoples opinions. I swear that it used to be that I didn’t believe half the stuff that was written, now it is more like 90% of everything I hear is just flat out what someone wants you to believe. Just a few days ago, some eco-loon was saying that in 10 years time there will be more plastic in the ociean than fish. I mean never mind how stupid that is to begin with, but how would someone ever calculate that. And of course the favorite of all time is the Elizabeth Warren go to statement “we are all going to die if Republicans enact some policy.” I mean seriously, where do people come up with this stuff, and why don’t rational people stop listening to these sorts of blatherings. Oh my God, the Germans like Chinese better than Americans! So what, who cares. But at some point maybe someone here might care, and might stop buying BMW’s.

    • Gary Hemminger

      Oh, and one more thing. AI might want to consider getting a statistician on board. Surveys that have x-axes that have 2 points on them aren’t very statistically interesting.

      • Andrew Allison

        Surely you’re not suggesting that we should introduce reason into polemics? It’s apparently, and sadly, necessary for the adults in room to introduce the kiddywinks to thoughtful, as opposed to breathless, analysis.

    • PCB

      I have the exact same take on this piece. Stupid survey from beginning to end and with positively no meaning – totally void of reason and veracity. I am beginning to understand how Pew got its name; because everything coming out of it lately really stinks.

    • Andrew Allison

      One might argue that this stupid POS wouldn’t have been posted if TAI didn’t dislike President Trump as much, if not more, that the EUnicks. Memo to Prof. Mead: read the comments to Willick’s most recent (or any other) snarky piece and try to grasp the fact that it’s a minority viewpoint, and that the staff juveniles are just that.

  • KremlinKryptonite

    I’ve been all over the world for work and for play. Three indicators of real soft power are apparel, language, and school. The US wins in all three by a wide margin.
    The English language is by far the most studied (and sought after) language and that includes for the Chinese.
    American and British flag apparel and accessories far and away beat everyone else from Asia to South America.
    Why do they wear US flags on their purses, hats, and shirts? Simple. It makes them look cool. It’s a status symbol. Makes them appear as though they’ve traveled to the US and/or UK, possibly even studied there.
    Leading to school. The US laps everyone by hosting 20% or so of all international students. The UK is number two, hosting around 10%. China is not even in the top five hosting barely 2%.

    • Andrew Allison

      And, pace the post, where the heck is the EU in all of this? Answer: frantically virtue signalling while steadily sinking into chaotic irrelevancy.

  • FriendlyGoat

    A couple of observations:

    The line graphs seem to indicate that respect for America’s economic leadership has declined between 2016 and 2017 in all places shown.

    It’s not good to have our big three English-speaking partners (UK, Canada Australia) believing China is the leader over the USA.

  • Unelected Leader

    America’s the largest single economy (for now) and loses $500 billion each and every year in a trade deficit. Nobody else does that, or more likely it’s trumps talk of putting the kibosh on some of that which scares them.
    Worse yet, some of that breathtakingly huge deficit comes back in the form of fake “investment” using americas own deficit dollars to buy up existing US companies and then shift the labor out of the US.

  • Andrew Allison

    Isn’t it about time we started giving Pew surveys the attention they deserve, namely none. Does the US actually have any real allies in Europe? Are any, or all of them combined, EU countries in a position to challenge either the US or China on the world stage, and if not, who cares what they think? Finally, the ONLY reason for the declining prestige of the US is the relentless efforts of the MSM to denigrate the President and his administration. In a sane world, this would be regarded as treasonous.

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