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Rising Concern about China's Increasing Power: Global Poll

March 29, 2011

Full Report (PDF)

Public concern is growing about China's increasing economic power, according to a new global poll conducted for BBC World Service.

The poll conducted by GlobeScan/PIPA among 28,619 people in 27 countries reveals that the numbers who say that China becoming more powerful economically is a bad thing have increased substantially across a number of China's key trading partners--and especially in G7 countries.

Compared to BBC World Service polling in 2005, negative views of China's growing economic power rose--and are now in the majority--in France (up from 31% to 53%), in Canada (up from 37% to 55%), in Germany (up from 44% to 53%), in Italy (up from 47% to 57%) and in the USA (up from 45% to 54%). Negative views also grew significantly in countries such as the United Kingdom (up from 34% to 41%), and Mexico (up from 18% to 43%).

Despite increasing unease in many countries, however, views of China's increased economic power remained positive on balance, with an average of 50 per cent with a positive view of it and 33 per cent with a negative view across all countries polled. The two nations with the most positive views of China's economic growth were in Africa--Nigeria (82%) and Kenya (77%).

The poll results also suggest that worries about China's economic growth are related to perceptions that China's trade practices with other countries are unfair.

Overall, more than one-third of those polled (35%) rated China's trade practices as unfair, compared to 28 per cent who rated US trade practices as unfair and just one in five (20%) who felt EU trade practices are unfair. Further, the proportions rating China's trade practices as unfair were substantially higher in the countries that have a negative view of China's economic growth, including Japan (70% saying China is unfair), France (59%), South Korea (58%), Germany (56%), Italy (51%), the USA (45%), the United Kingdom (44%), Mexico (41%), and Canada (39%). These countries are among China's largest trading partners.

China is also expected by many to overtake the USA in economic importance to their country over the next ten years. Asked to rate on a scale of 0 to 10 the importance of their economic relations with the USA, China, and the EU now, and in ten years' time, people on average give China a score of 6.85, but a score of 7.29 in ten years--more important than the USA and the EU.

Doug Miller, Chairman of GlobeScan, comments: "China's 'economic miracle' is more controversial today than it was in 2005. Ravaged by the Great Recession, citizens of G7 countries may be less certain how they will compete with China, now so large in their economic lives."

Steven Kull, Director of PIPA, said: "China may feel that it is only natural that it should seek advantages in its trading relations and a larger military footprint. But this poll suggests that a growing perception of China as acting unfairly is alienating some of its largest trading partners, while its military expansion is being watched by its neighbours with a wary eye."

Results are based on 28,619 in-home or telephone interviews conducted across a total of 27 countries by the international polling firm GlobeScan, together with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland. GlobeScan coordinated fieldwork between December 2, 2010 and February 4, 2011.

Participating Countries



Detailed Findings

As well as being asked to give their feeling about increased Chinese economic power, respondents were also asked to say how they felt about the possibility of China becoming significantly more powerful militarily. This is seen as a more ominous prospect with an average of 55 per cent among all countries surveyed viewing it as negative and only 26 per cent as positive. Compared to 2005, concern seems to be rising, especially among China's neighbours, with negative views increasing in South Korea (up from 58 to 76%), Russia (up from 59 to 69%), the Philippines (up from 46 to 63%), and Japan (up from 78 to 88%).

Detailed results suggest only a modest shift in people's expectations about the future economic importance of their country's trade relations with the USA, the EU, and China, but enough for China to overtake America as the country of primary importance among the three--the USA currently ranks higher than China in terms of importance (6.97), but is projected to be slightly lower than China in ten years' time (7.12). The EU is also rated as important (6.80 now) and is expected to almost catch up with the USA in terms of importance in ten years' time (7.10).

In some regions, trade relations with China are already being seen as more important than those with the US. China's Asian neighbours give an average rating of 7.18 to their relations with China, compared to just 7.00 for the US. Similarly, African countries polled on average give a higher rating to the current importance of trade relations with China (7.87) than they do to the USA (7.59)

In contrast, the public in the world's other emerging economic giant, India, thinks that its economic relations with the US will remain more important than those with China in ten years' time. The average score Indians give to China in terms of its economic importance to their nation rises from 5.36 now to 5.49 in ten years' time, while the average score given to the US falls from 6.37 to 6.11.



In total 28,619 citizens in 27 countries, were interviewed face-to-face, or by telephone December 2, 2010 and February 4, 2011. Some questions were asked of half of samples. Polling was conducted for BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan and its research partners in each country, together with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland. In eight of the 27 countries, the sample was limited to major urban areas. The margin of error per country ranges from +/- 2.8 to 4.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.


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