Mixed USA and China flag. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The favorable impressions that Chinese and Americans have toward each other’s country have declined in the past five years and a hefty percentage of Chinese are now less trusting of the US, says a survey released by a national organization of prominent Chinese Americans.

But the survey conducted every five years by the nonpartisan Committee of 100 (C100) also found that a large portion of citizens in both nations back US-China collaboration to solve the North Korea crisis.

Moreover, they share a common belief that jobs and the economy are top domestic concerns. For the first time, respondents in the US and China also agree that their three key areas of mutual interest are trade, global financial stability and the environment.

“The aim of this survey is to determine American attitudes toward China, and Chinese attitudes toward the United States … Now more than ever, it is crucial to find paths to mutual understanding and stronger bilateral relations,” C100 Chairman Frank H Wu said.

The survey is based on interviews with 3,696 people in China and 1,019 citizens in the US during the last two months of 2016.

Around 55% of Chinese say they have a favorable impression of the US, down from 59% in 2012, while 48% of Americans have a favorable view of China, down from 55%.

Only 15% of Chinese believe China should trust America, down from 36% in 2012.

Regarding the Korean crisis, 74% of Chinese and 91% of Americans believe in the importance of US-China collaboration to solve the nuclear crisis in North Korea.

Both Americans and Chinese are increasingly concerned about climate change, according to the survey. Around 79% in China say they are worried “a fair amount” to “a great deal” about global warming up from 62% in 2012. Similarly, 60% of Americans voice such concerns, up from 48% five years ago.

US press tilted against China?

The survey found that American journalists have noticeably more negative views of China than the general US public. Chinese journalists, in comparison, were far more upbeat about the US.

Asked to describe their impression of China, 62% of US journalists had an “unfavorable” view of China, with 34% “favorable” and 4% unsure.

Around 50% of the American public, on the other hand, had an unfavorable view of China, with 48% favorable and 1% unsure.

In contrast, 84% of Chinese journalists viewed the US favorably, with 13% unfavorable and 3% were unsure. This compares with 55% of the Chinese public who held a favorable view of the US, with 39 % unfavorable and 5% unsure.

Around86% of US journalists also said the American public’s view of China was unfavorable against 74% of Chinese journalists who said the Chinese public’s view of the US was favorable.

Sources of conflict

Americans cite alleged cyberattacks from China as the most likely source of bilateral conflict, along with trade. Stateside concerns about the cybersecurity threat from China more than doubled in importance from 11% in 2012 to 24% in 2017. Cybersecurity and trade worries have also overtaken human rights as the top American concerns regarding China compared with five years ago.

Some 79% of Chinese, on the other hand, see America’s military power as a potential to serious threat, with 72% viewing the territorial dispute in the South China Sea as a regional rather than an international issue.

More than 80% of both Americans and Chinese also agree that trade with China is beneficial to the US economy.

Chinese upbeat about future

People’s optimism about the future direction of their country is at an all-time high: 92% of Chinese think China is headed on the right track compared with 54% of Americans who believe the US is on the wrong track.

Some 60% of Chinese also believe that China will surpass the US as the world’s leading superpower.

One bright spot in the survey is that millennials in both China and the US have a more favorable impression and are more trusting of each other’s country. Around 60% of Chinese under 35 have a favorable impression of the US, while it is 55% among China’s public. Some 57% of Americans under 35 have a favorable impression of China, while it is 48% among the US public.

“American millennials have a less confrontational stance toward China — that offers hope,” said Charlie Woo, a C100 member who presented the survey’s findings at the C100 annual conference in Washington, DC, on May 19.

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