China’s global pop­u­lar­ity on the rise, sur­veys find

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - Chen Wei­hua Washington Journal Con­tact the writer at chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­lyusa.com.

When China be­gan its re­form and open­ing up drive in 1978, its gross do­mes­tic prod­uct (GDP) ranked 10th in the world, trail­ing not only the United States, but a host of other na­tions, in­clud­ing Ja­pan, Ger­many, France, the United King­dom, Italy, Canada, Brazil and Spain. In fact, it was smaller than the econ­omy of Cal­i­for­nia.

The story since then is known to all. China played catch-up rapidly. In De­cem­ber 2014, an IMF re­port stated that us­ing pur­chas­ing power par­ity, China pro­duced $17.6 tril­lion in terms of goods and ser­vices that year, com­pared with $17.4 tril­lion for the US.

Oth­er­wise, the Con­fer­ence Board es­ti­mates that China’s GDP will sur­pass that of the US by 2018, and PriceWater­house Coop­ers fore­casts that China’s econ­omy will be big­ger than the US’ be­fore 2030.

The trend seems to be clear that China will have the world’s largest econ­omy in the com­ing years or decades, if not al­ready. But it is true that in the per capita sense, China’s GDP is much smaller.

Like the var­ied es­ti­mates, per­cep­tions among peo­ple in coun­tries are quite dif­fer­ent. A Pew Re­search Cen­ter sur­vey re­leased last Thurs­day shows that across 38 na­tions polled, a me­dian of 42 per­cent say the US is the world’s lead­ing econ­omy, while 32 per­cent name China.

Peo­ple in Latin Amer­ica and much of Asia and sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa tend to think the US is the largest econ­omy. And by a 51 per­cent to 35 per­cent mar­gin, peo­ple in the US name their own coun­try rather than China as the largest econ­omy. That con­trasts to a Gallup poll in Fe­bru­ary 2016 which showed that by 50 per­cent to 37 per­cent, more Amer­i­cans say China rather than the US is the top econ­omy.

Prob­a­bly quite sur­pris­ingly, in seven of the 10 Euro­pean Union na­tions sur­veyed by Pew, China is re­garded as the lead­ing eco­nomic power. A plu­ral­ity in Rus­sia also holds this view. China leads the US by a 2-to-1 ra­tio in Aus­tralia — a long­time US se­cu­rity ally whose largest trad­ing part­ner is China.

While more coun­tries be­lieve the US is still the largest econ­omy, per­cep­tions of rel­a­tive US eco­nomic power have de­clined among many of the US’ key trad­ing part­ners and al­lies, ac­cord­ing to the sur­vey. Such a shift is not only true in Europe, but also in coun­tries such as Canada, Brazil, Mex­ico and the Philip­pines.

The sur­vey finds that global publics tend to ex­press pos­i­tive views about China, and more peo­ple now ex­press neg­a­tive views of the US than of China. A me­dian of 47 per­cent across the 38 na­tions polled have a fa­vor­able view of China, while 37 per­cent have an un­fa­vor­able one; a me­dian of 49 per­cent see the US in a pos­i­tive light while 39 per­cent of­fer an un­fa­vor­able view.

Sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa is the re­gion where China re­ceives its most pos­i­tive rat­ings, a clear refu­ta­tion of those who have crit­i­cized China’s role in Africa. At 72 per­cent, Nige­ri­ans’ as­sess­ment of China is the most pos­i­tive on the sur­vey. Also, 70 per­cent of Rus­sians ex­press a fa­vor­able view of China.

China is also viewed very fa­vor­ably in Latin Amer­ica, where 51 per­cent ex­press a fa­vor­able opinion of China while 26 per­cent ex­press an un­fa­vor­able view — again, a refu­ta­tion of crit­i­cism of China’s grow­ing role in Latin Amer­ica.

While Euro­peans are di­vided on China, the share of the pub­lic with a pos­i­tive opinion of China has in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly in coun­tries such as Spain, France and the UK.

China has suf­fered a drop in its fa­vor­able view in South Korea, In­dia and Viet­nam, but the sur­vey does not say whether this was due to China’s strained re­la­tions with these coun­tries due to China’s strong op­po­si­tion to the THAAD anti-mis­sile de­fense sys­tem in South Korea, the bor­der stand­off with In­dia or a mar­itime ter­ri­to­rial dis­pute with Viet­nam.

In the US, 44 per­cent view China fa­vor­ably while 47 per­cent ex­press an un­fa­vor­able view. That is less ex­cit­ing than a Gallup poll in Fe­bru­ary which showed that 50 per­cent in the US now view China fa­vor­ably, the best since the end of the 1980s.

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