International

US Favored Over China in Dozens of Countries, Pew Survey Says

Tourists in Times Square, New York City. Photographer: Charley Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images (Charley Triballeau/Photographer: Charley Triballeau)

(Bloomberg) -- The US had a largely more favorable image than China in 35 high- and middle-income countries surveyed by the Pew Research Center, showing Beijing’s effort to win hearts and minds globally still has a ways to go.

More than twice as many people saw the US positively than they viewed China across 18 high-income countries, with the gap most stark in Poland, Japan, the US and South Korea, survey results released Tuesday suggested. That contrasts with views in the 17 middle-income countries polled, which favored both countries similarly.

The survey results show both a challenge and an opportunity for Beijing, which is seeking to weaken the US’ global influence and court Global South countries. While middle-income countries tended to have a rosier view of China, the US maintained a slight edge even among the poorer group of nations in the surveys conducted earlier this year.

A majority of the public in these middle-income nations had a favorable opinion of China, but the US were more popular in 10 countries, including Ghana, Kenya, Brazil and Peru — countries China has hailed closer ties with in recent years.

Overall, a median of 61% adults in this country group held a favorable opinion of the US, compared to 56% people who saw China positively. As far as leaders are concerned, the middle-income countries were similarly confident in President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping’s ability to do the right thing regarding world affairs. 

The 18 rich countries, in contrast, viewed China and Xi more negatively. Only 24% had a favorable opinion of China, compared to 53% people who saw the US positively, the survey found. Only 17% had confidence in Xi.

Xi has pitched himself as a leader of the Global South nations as he steps up efforts to counter the US-led world order. Last month, he called for developing nations to have a greater say in international affairs.

China’s economic influence rose significantly in 11 of 15 countries where such sentiments were tracked, including Brazil, India, Kenya and Argentina, according to a separate Pew analysis.

Different nations had mixed views of whether those changes were positive. Notably, about three-quarters of Americans said China had a negative impact on the US economy, which may indicate popular support for measures to curb Chinese imports. Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria and Peru were among countries that viewed the influence positively.

Separate surveys have suggested China is gaining popularity in some parts of the world. The No. 2 economy this year toppled the US to become the top alignment choice for nations in Southeast Asia, according to Singapore-based ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

Singapore is the only rich nation where more adults preferred China over the US, according to the Pew survey. Among middle-income countries, Malaysia, Turkey, Tunisia and Bangladesh viewed China more positively than the US.

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