Chinese people believe the United States is the “top threat” facing their country, a poll showed Wednesday, with most suspecting the world’s number one economy of trying to “prevent China from becoming an equal power”.
A survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center revealed 45 percent of Chinese consider US power and influence to be a “major threat” — more than economic instability (35 percent), climate change (34 percent) and the Islamic State (15 percent).
However, half of the 3,154 respondents in the survey had a “favourable opinion” of the US — including 60 percent of those aged between 18 and 34.
The news comes as Beijing and Washington are at loggerheads over China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, with the US urging China to adhere to the rule of law and Beijing accusing its ally of interference.
The vast majority of Chinese (75 percent) believe their own country plays “a more important role in world affairs” than a decade ago, compared with only 21 percent of Americans, 23 percent of Europeans and 68 percent of Indians.
However, this confidence in China’s international stature contrasts with a growing sense of unease among many, the survey showed, with about three-quarters of respondents saying their “way of life needs to be protected against foreign influence” — up from 64 percent in 2002.
Despite China’s increasing diplomatic influence, 56 percent of Chinese said they wanted their leaders to focus on the country’s own challenges, such as official corruption, which most said was a problem.
Growing inequality is also a concern, with 37 percent describing the gap between rich and poor as a “very big problem”.
Other worries include: food safety (74 percent), the country’s choking air pollution (70 percent) and rising prices (74 percent), as many Chinese struggle to get a foothold in the real estate market.