The US public has become increasingly hostile towards China as Donald Trump ratcheted up the trade war with Beijing and ramped up his verbal attacks on the Asian nation, according to a survey released on Tuesday.
A Pew Research Center poll conducted between mid-May and mid-June, after the acrimonious breakdown of trade negotiations between senior US and Chinese officials, found that 60 per cent of Americans have an “unfavourable” view of China, compared with just 26 per cent who held a positive view.
This marked a sharp increase in Americans who view China in a negative light compared with 2018, when 47 per cent of the US public said they had an unfavourable view of China, and the highest level of unfavourability since the Pew series began in 2005.
The results of the Pew study will add to concern that the trade war is doing lasting damage to relations between the world’s two largest economies. Earlier this month, Mr Trump vowed to slap 10 per cent levies on a further $300bn of Chinese goods by September 1, on top of 25 per cent tariffs already in place on $250bn of Chinese imports — although the US administration on Tuesday delayed the move until December.
The Trump administration has also placed Huawei, China’s top telecommunications equipment maker, on an export blacklist, and has formally labelled Beijing a currency manipulator. Meanwhile, national security concerns about China are reaching the point where student exchanges and university research between the two countries are facing new restrictions and scrutiny.
According to the poll, the negative views of China are bipartisan, though they have increased more rapidly among Republicans. Demographically, it is older and college-educated Americans who tend to have a more downbeat perception of China.
In Washington, officials, lobbyists, lawmakers and researchers have become increasingly sceptical of Beijing’s motives and ability to abide by the rules of global trade. The Pew research suggests those misgivings are now widespread across the US. During the first years of Barack Obama’s administration, Americans had a generally favourable view of China, but that support had faded by his second term in office.
About 24 per cent of Americans now view China as the “greatest threat” to the US in the future, on a par with Russia — a doubling of the share of Americans who feel that way since 2014. However, much of the concern is focused on the growth of China’s military power, rather than its economic strength, according to the survey.
Fifty per cent of Americans believe that China’s growing economy is a good thing for US, suggesting they do not accept the notion that commercial relations between the two countries are a zero-sum game.
The Pew results come at a sensitive time, amid fears the trade war could inflict more serious damage on the US economy and the global economy. Stock markets have suffered in recent weeks, as investors flocked to government debt, but the tariffs delay sparked a recovery on Tuesday.