Most Americans are unsure of how China’s Xi will handle world affairs

  • A Pew Research Center poll found that most Americans surveyed do not have much confidence that Chinese President Xi Jinping “will do the right thing in world affairs.”
  • The study found that 13% of Americans said they had never heard of Xi — which rose to 27% among participants ages 18 to 29.
  • However, the survey found, more than half of people in the United States said the two countries could work together on trade and economic policy, and student exchanges.

US President Joe Biden meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 Leaders Summit in Bali, Indonesia, on November 14, 2022.

Kevin Lamarck | Reuters

Most U.S. adults polled said they don’t have much confidence that Chinese President Xi Jinping “will do the right thing in world affairs,” according to a Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday.

The survey found that despite this pessimism, more than half of people in the United States said the two countries could work together on trade and economic policy.

The study, which covers more than 3,500 US adults between March 20 and 26, comes as tensions between the US and China have escalated to the point of limited bilateral interaction. Putting pressure on Beijing is one of the few topics with strong bipartisan support in the United States

Meanwhile, Xi has consolidated his power in China and seeks to enhance China’s global influence.

In March, China brokered the restoration of diplomatic relations between Middle Eastern rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran. Beijing has so far refused to condemn Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, while calling for peace talks.

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It is unclear how aware Pew respondents are of such global events and developments.

The study found that 13% of Americans who took part in the survey said they had never heard of Xi — a percentage that rose to 27% among respondents ages 18 to 29.

However, most respondents took a pessimistic view: nearly half, or 47%, said they had “no confidence at all” in Xi handling world affairs well, while another 30% said they had “not much confidence”.

The report stated that about three-quarters of the respondents said that China does not take into account the interests of countries such as the United States, and that China interferes in the affairs of other countries.

More than half of the respondents said that China does not contribute to world peace and stability.

This directly contradicts Beijing’s narrative that it is a contributor to world peace and economic development.

China has accounted for more than 15% of global GDP in the past several years, according to World Bank data. In 2010, China overtook Japan to become the second largest economy in the world, behind only the United States

This year, China’s Foreign Ministry published papers highlighting US involvement in the “Many wars abroad” and claiming US alliances in the Asia-Pacific region It is meant to “undermine the peace”.

Cooperation between the United States and China on economic matters was one of the two areas in which Pew respondents remained most optimistic.

Just over half said the two countries could cooperate on trade and economic policy, the report said, without detailing questions about specific policies.

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Pew found that the only other category in which more than half of the respondents said the two countries could cooperate in were student exchange programmes.

The number of Chinese students in the United States and American students studying in China has declined sharply during the Covid pandemic. It was a reflection of a general downturn in two-way travel that has yet to pick up significantly, According to a report It was published last week by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a bipartisan policy research organization and think tank based in Washington, DC.

The report was co-authored by Scott Kennedy, chair of CSIS in China Business and Economics, and Wang Jesse, founding chair of the Institute for International Strategic Studies at Peking University.

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On visits to China in the past 12 months, Kennedy said people he met told him that Washington was entirely responsible for the deterioration of US-China relations, and that China was still on the inevitable path to becoming a major power.

China is generally expected to overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy in the coming years.

One narrative deeply rooted in China, and frequently cited by Xi, is that the ruling Chinese Communist Party is leading the country “on the right side of history” and out of the nineteenth century. “humiliation” by Western imperialists.

Pew respondents mostly did not see areas of potential cooperation between the United States and China.

Of five of these areas included in the survey, three saw more than half of respondents express pessimism: resolving international conflicts, climate change policy, and dealing with the spread of infectious diseases.

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“I don’t know what we could work with them. Certainly not the climate,” the Pew report said, citing an unnamed 25-year-old woman who participated in a focus group.

The Biden administration has said the United States is in competition with China, and has imposed a ban on the export of critical semiconductor technology to China. This came in the wake of tariffs imposed by the Trump administration on Chinese goods and the blacklisting of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei.

A recent Pew survey found that nearly half of people surveyed in the United States said China is getting more from bilateral trade, and more than 80% said China’s growing technological power is a serious — if not very serious — problem for the United States.

Xi and President Joe Biden met in person in November for the first time since Biden took office. But according to public records, the two leaders have not spoken since the US shot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon in US airspace in February.

The balloon accident caused US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone his trip to Beijing. Sources told CNBC last week that senior officials from the Commerce Department will visit China as part of an effort to lay the groundwork for a potential trip for Secretary Gina Raimondo later this year.

— CNBC’s Kayla Tosh contributed to this report.

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