Americans understand the benefits of a strong relationship between the United States and China. They also see the drawbacks of the growth in influence of the People’s Republic. That second sentiment may trump the pursuit of better relations and color the future of ties between the two countries — or lack of one. This will be particularly true as election day gets closer.
A new Gallup poll shows that:
Most adults and opinion leaders in the U.S. say a close relationship between the U.S. and China is a good thing for the U.S. About eight in 10 Americans and 88% of U.S. opinion leaders say this, a Gallup-China Daily USA study finds. However, about six in 10 in both groups say China’s growing influence in the world is bad for the U.S.
This data suggests that Americans, in large numbers, do not trust the Chinese. The Chinese have done a great deal to foster that. The probable manipulation of the yuan has caused the U.S. trade problems. China is thought to be the source of much of the hacking activity that has compromised protected corporate and government websites. The Asian nation is still a sinkhole for American intellectual property, mostly software, consumer electronics and premium entertainment. In a number of industries, it is all but impossible for U.S. firms to gain entry to the Chinese market. China continues to be viewed as a nation that puts its own prospects ahead of others at nearly any cost.
The upcoming national election will be in part a referendum on China’s relationship with the U.S. Both political parties have shown tendencies to paint China as a threat to American interests. It has become popular as U.S. jobs still seem to go overseas to nations with lower costs of labor. China’s military build-up is a growing cause for worry. And trade manipulation has stayed in the headlines.
Whatever level of desire Americans have for a better relationship with China, it seems, are overwhelmed by mistrust, Gallup shows. The fear of China does make the country a convenient target for politicians who have to fight for their jobs this fall. That will mean China’s image will be beaten down even more than some of the current Gallup answers show.
Douglas A. McIntyre