China Conflicted Over Rising Global Power Status, Survey Shows

  • Public supports greater role while fearing foreign influence
  • Half hold favorable view of U.S., but wary of country’s power

Chinese people are both pleased with their country’s rising global might and wary of foreign entanglements, according to an independent public opinion survey that reveals deep anxiety in the country after three decades of unprecedented economic growth.

About 60 percent of Chinese polled said their country’s involvement in the global economy was a good thing, according to the report released Wednesday by the Washington-based Pew Research Center. At the same time, more than three-quarters, or 77 percent, believed that their way of life needs to be protected against foreign influence, an increase of 13 percentage points from 2002.

“Such self-confidence about China’s international stature coexists with some degree of anxiety and a general tendency to look inward more than outward,” said the report’s authors, Richard Wike and Bruce Stokes.

The survey of 3,154 respondents in China earlier this year gives a glimpse into the public psyche of the world’s most populous country. Censorship and other restrictions on dissent prevent people from airing their views and hinder the flow of information from the outside world.

The survey indicated unease over China’s involvement in foreign affairs. While 75 percent said China played a more important global role than 10 years ago, 56 percent wanted the government in Beijing to focus on domestic problems. Just 22 percent believed that their government should help other nations.

The respondents also offered conflicting views about the U.S., which has increasingly found itself jockeying with China for strategic influence in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. They ranked the U.S. as the biggest “major threat” facing the country, with 45 percent saying they were concerned about U.S. power and influence. In comparison, only 15 percent are worried about so-called Islamic State militant group.

Even so, half said they had a favorable view of the U.S. While a majority, or 52 percent, believed the U.S. was trying to prevent China from becoming powerful, the same percentage expressed confidence in outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama.

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