America’s image abroad is more positive than China’s, but a growing number of people believe China will overtake the United States as the top economy

The United States remains more popular abroad than China, but a growing number of people around the world believe China will become the world’s leading economic power, according to a Pew Research Center survey released today.

According to the survey of people in 39 countries, 63 percent of respondents view the United States favorably overall, while 50 percent view China favorably. Around the world, people are more likely to consider the United States a partner, view the United States as more willing to consider other countries’ interests, and believe the United States respects the personal freedoms of its citizens.

China’s growing economic clout

A growing number of people view China as the world’s leading economic power. The median percentage of those who say the United States is the world’s leading economy dropped from 47 percent in 2008 to 41 percent in 2013. Just 20 percent of those surveyed in 2008 said China was the top economy; 34 percent of survey respondents in 2013 say China is the world’s leading economic power.

Many see China’s rise to the top spot as inevitable, with majorities or pluralities in 23 countries saying China either already has or eventually will replace the United States as the top economic power.

Americans are split on whether China will become the top economy. This year, 47 percent of Americans say China will replace the United States as the world’s economic power, while 47 percent say China will never replace the United States. In 2008, just 36 percent of Americans believed China would become the top economic power. Sixty-six percent of Chinese respondents say their country already has or will surpass the United States to become the top economy.

Chinese investment

In Africa—where China surpassed the United States in 2009 to become the continent’s largest trading partner—survey respondents view China as a national partner and admire Chinese business practices. More than half of Nigerians (76 percent), Kenyans (68 percent), and Senegalese (65 percent) have positive views of how China does business.

But American ways of doing business are also popular in Africa, with 70 percent or more of the respondents in Kenya (81 percent), Ghana (75 percent), Senegal (75 percent), and Nigeria (70 percent) rating US business practices favorably.

China has also become a major trade and investment partner in Latin America, but Latin American views of China’s business practices are mixed. While 53 percent of Venezuelans and 48 percent of Chileans have positive views of Chinese business practices, less than 40 percent of respondents in Bolivia, Mexico, and Argentina like Chinese ways of doing business.

Latin American views of US business practices are also mixed. Majorities in El Salvador (66 percent), Brazil (58 percent), and Chile (52 percent) hold favorable views of American ways of doing business. US business practices are less popular in Argentina, Bolivia, and Venezuela.

Tensions rise

The survey indicates that Chinese and American citizens’ views of each other are increasingly negative. Two years ago, 51 percent of Americans held positive views of China, compared to 37 percent in 2013.

The results are similar in China. In 2010, 58 percent of Chinese held favorable view of the United States, but today just 40 percent view the United States positively.

Young people in the United States and China generally hold more favorable views of each other’s countries. Half of Chinese respondents under the age of 30 hold favorable views of the United States, and 57 percent of Americans under 30 view China favorably.

[author] Christina Nelson ([email protected]) is editor of the China Business Review. [/author]

Posted by Christina Nelson