1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Favorable views of China

Interview: Gabriel Domínguez
July 16, 2014

Asians are anxious that China's territorial disputes with its neighbors could lead to military conflict, a study found. But as the Pew Research Center's Richard Wike tells DW, global views of China are mainly positive.

Pedestrians walk past the skyline of the city's financial district in Shanghai on October 8, 2010.
Image: PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

A large number of Asians is increasingly concerned about the fact China, as Asia's largest economic and military power, has territorial disputes with many of its neighbors, a study by the Washington-based Pew Research Center in 44 countries found.

The 2014 Spring Pew Global Attitudes Survey, released on July 14, indicates that majorities in eight of the eleven Asian countries surveyed are worried that Beijing's territorial ambitions could lead to military conflict. "In a number of the nations closest to China, overwhelming proportions of the public expressed such fears, including 93 percent of Filipinos, 85 percent of Japanese, 84 percent of Vietnamese and 83 percent of South Koreans."

However, the study also reveals that with its strong economy and the steady increases in its military budget, China has seen its stature grow in the eyes of the global public. The study covered a set of issues ranging from opinions about Xi Jinping, to how Asians view each other and the balance of power between the US and China. Results for the survey were based on telephone and face-to-face interviews. Richard Wike, director of global attitudes research at Pew Research Center, says in a DW interview that looking to the future, in most of the countries surveyed people believe China will ultimately overtake the US as the dominant superpower.

DW: What would you say are the key findings of your survey on global views on China's image?

Richard Wike: In this year's survey, I think the most interesting finding about China is the high level of concern in Asia about territorial disputes between China and its neighbors potentially leading to military conflict. More than eight-in-ten are concerned about this in the Philippines, Japan, Vietnam, and South Korea. So are 72 percent of Indians and 67 percent of Americans. And 62 percent hold this view in China itself.

Richard Wike, DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL ATTITUDES RESEARCH. Copyright: Pew Research Center
Wike: "China's growing military power and its increasing assertiveness in Asia create anxieties among many of its neighbors"Image: Pew Research Center

Where does China receive the most favorable views and why?

Pakistan is the country with the highest percentage of people expressing a positive view of China - fully 78 percent of Pakistanis give China a favorable rating. Most Pakistanis also choose China as their country's top ally. Over the years, we've consistently found that Pakistanis give China some of its highest ratings. In part, this could be because China is seen by many as a rival to the US and India, both of which are very unpopular in Pakistan.

What are the main aspects that make the international community and specially its immediate neighbors wary of China?

China's growing military power and its increasing assertiveness in Asia create anxieties among many of its neighbors. In particular, people in the region are worried that the many territorial disputes China has with neighboring countries could lead to conflict.

How is China viewed in Europe and especially in Germany?

Overall ratings for China tend to be more negative than positive in Europe. The only exception among the EU countries we surveyed is the UK, where a 47 percent plurality has a positive opinion of China.

Germans are especially critical of China - just 28 percent express a positive view, while 64 percent give China a negative rating. And like others in Europe, Germans overwhelmingly give Beijing poor marks for human rights. Fully 91 percent of Germans say the Chinese government does not respect the personal freedoms of its people. When it comes to China's growing economic prowess, however, Germans see this in a more positive light. About half – 51 percent – say China's growing economy is good for Germany.

What is the general opinion on Chinese President Xi Jinping?

Globally, ratings for Xi are more negative than positive, although many around the world – and especially in Latin America and Africa – do not have an opinion yet about him. Sixty-two percent of Germans say they do not have confidence in Xi to do the right thing in world affairs, and he gets similarly low ratings in most of the other EU nations we polled.

How has China's perceived stature relative to the US grown?

Since the onset of the economic downturn in 2008, our surveys have shown a global trend in which an increasing number of people see China's power on the rise and America's relative power in decline. Today, our survey still finds that global publics see the US as the world's leading economic power, but this is less true now than it was in spring 2008. And looking to the future, in most of the countries we surveyed people believe China will ultimately overtake the US as the dominant superpower.

Chinese President Xi Jinping waves after arriving at Seoul Air Base in Seongnam July 3, 2014.
Ratings for Xi are more negative than positive, although many around the world do not have an opinion yet about him, says WikeImage: Reuters

How is China's growing economic and military might perceived in Asia?

Many people see China as both a threat and an opportunity. Economically, many in Asia see China as an opportunity and they tend to believe that the country's economic growth is good for their own country. In the security realm, however, China is often considered a threat – many fear its growing military might, and they worry that territorial disputes with China could lead to military conflict.

Richard Wike is director of global attitudes research at the Washington-based Pew Research Center.

Skip next section Explore more