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On Sino-U.S. Relations

How Do Ordinary Chinese View China-U.S. relations?

How Do  Ordinary Chinese View China-U.S. Relations?

[Editor’s note: In general, China’s state-run media has not been very kind when reporting American politics and government policies. How the Chinese view Sino-U.S. relations may help in analyzing the impact of the Chinese media on the people. Around the time of the traditional Chinese Lantern Festival, Global Times (a newspaper under the Xinhua News Agency) conducted a poll in five major cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuhan, and Chongqing), with the assistance of the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The poll contained 22 questions and started with random sampling, and then assigned survey personnel to visit and interview selected respondents. The effective samples for the whole poll are 1,175 respondents. Below is a report of the results published in Global Times on March 2, 2005.]

How Chinese See the United States

"Of residents in these cities, 51.9 percent are somewhat satisfied, 18 percent satisfied and 1 percent very satisfied with China-U.S. relations. With three combined, the rate of satisfaction reaches as high as 70.9 percent.

"Most people somewhat like or like Americans, accounting for 52.9 percent and 13.2 percent respectively. The combination of the two is 66.1 percent.

"49.2 percent of respondents believe that the United States is China’s competitor. At the same time, 10.4 percent regard the United States as a friendly country. 11.7 percent regard the United States as a model to follow. 25.6 percent regard the United States as a cooperation partner. The total of the three categories is 47.7 percent.

"A high 56.7 percent believe that the United States is indeed trying to restrain China.

"60.5 percent think that the major issue that may influence China-U.S. relations in the future is the Taiwan issue.

"Under the question of why they are not satisfied with the United Sates, 37.6 percent choose ‘Arms sale to Taiwan.’ 31.7 percent choose ‘Starting the Iraqi War,’ while 7.9 percent choose ‘Enhancing military relations with Japan.’

"Over half of the respondents think that China and the United States ‘will’ or ‘may’ have conflicts over the Taiwan issue (11.9 percent and 41.2 percent respectively). Yet 40 percent of respondents think the possibility of conflicts is not high or does not exist.{mospagebreak}

"Respondents commonly hold a negative attitude toward the United States for repeatedly raising China’s human rights issue. 49.3 percent think that the United State wants to use this method to sabotage China’s stability. 10.4 percent think it is to smear China’s image. 19.1 percent thinks it is the result of U.S. lack of understanding of China. The total of the three reaches a high 78.8 percent. A mere 15.7 percent indicate that the United States is promoting democracy in China.

"50.7 percent of the respondents do not see much change in China-U.S. relations in recent years, while 27.3 percent see some improvement.

"61.92 percent hold that that the development of China-U.S. relations has accelerated China’s economic development. 49.31 percent believe that it has promoted China’s reform to open up.

"45.0 percent of the respondents predict that, during Bush’s second term, China-U.S. relations would remain status quo. 29.4 percent think there will be some improvement. But 11.7 percent of respondents believe there will be regression.

"More than half (55.7 percent) think that the American culture has both good and bad influence on China. Another 22 percent think that it has a positive effect on China.

"Among the respondents, what people appreciate most is the United States’ advanced science and technology, accounting for 43.7 percent, followed by the United States’ well-built legal system (20.9 percent) and good life (17.9 percent).

"Large numbers of urban Chinese have positive comments on the economic exchange between the two countries. 46.18 percent hold that the economic exchange between the two countries has promoted political exchanges, and 46.09 percent think it has enhanced the friendship between their people.

"49.8 percent of respondents do not harbor prejudice against American products in the Chinese market. They think that as long as the quality and the service are good, they do not mind the origin of the brand. 25.5 percent say they welcome American products in the Chinese market, thinking it would benefit both countries.

"31.9 percent of the respondents are able to accept America’s cultural products but think those are not applicable to their lives. Moreover, 27.5 percent say that they highly appreciate America’s cultural products and that there are many exquisite pieces in those products. With the two combined altogether, 59.4 percent are able to accept American culture.{mospagebreak}

"Besides, there is another group of important data: 62.7 percent of China’s urban residents learn about the United States mostly through public media. 20.7 percent learn about the United States from American movies, while only 3.7 percent through direct contacts with Americans."

"Love and Hate" Between China and The United States

"Speaking about interpreting the poll results, Ding Gang, Deputy Director of the International Section of People’s Daily, said that he was deeply impressed by how Chinese’s view of the United States resembles the way that Americans view China. Both have a contradictory mentality: love and hate or love and fear.

"Such a mentality could be seen in several results in the poll. Most Chinese, for example, have sensed that the United States is restraining China but there are still a lot of Chinese who like Americans. Yan Xuetong, Director of the International Affairs Institute, Tsinghua University, also stated that we were able to see from the poll that the majority of the Chinese public shows appreciation of Americans and the American society. However, a larger percentage of the respondents do not think much of the U.S. foreign policies, including its China policy.

"As to the negative factors in the development of China-U.S. relations, the viewpoint of everyday Chinese people is consistent with that of the Chinese government. Yan Xuetong stated that one could see from the poll that Chinese made a clear distinction among Americans, American society and the U.S. government. What the Chinese public is discontented with is mostly the U.S. foreign policies, including its China policy—Taiwan being the core. Over 60 percent of the respondents think that it (the Taiwan issue) is the key issue that affects China-U.S. relations in the future. However, according to a survey conducted recently in the United States, 32 percent of Americans believe that the most important problem in the China-U.S. relations is the human rights issue. Tao Wenzhao, researcher at the Institute of American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, thinks that different Americans raised such issues for different reasons. Some of them have never been to China. Others intentionally use the human rights issue to sabotage China’s development. Also, others are of the opinion that all should accept American values. Thus, it is rather complicated."

What Influences How Chinese View The United States?

"All experts pay special attention to the 62.7 percent—the high percentage of Chinese urban residents who admit that media form their impressions of the United States. Tao Wenzhao also admits that in fact media influences, to a great extent, scholars and policy makers in China and the United States. The role of media on public opinions of China-U.S. relations should not be underestimated. Yan Xuetong says that it is obvious that Chinese people basically accept whatever media says about international affairs.{mospagebreak}

"Just because of this, Yan Xuetong pointed out specifically, that among the factors that cause the discontent of Chinese people with the United States, there was almost no difference between the number of people who choose ‘Arms sale to Taiwan’ and the number of people who choose ‘Starting the Iraqi War.’ But to his great surprise, few people choose ‘Enhancing military relations with Japan.’ ‘One is something far away from us. Another is an important event that takes place outside our front door. The third one is happening right in our house. Why does the poll show such a result?’ says Yan Xuetong. He further reminds us, ‘Think about our media’s reports on Iraq. Compared to the U.S. reports on the Taiwan arms sale, we don’t know how much our reports outnumber theirs!’ As for ‘the United States and Japan strengthen their military relations,’ Ding Gang believes that from the analysis of the poll data, many people do not even know about it or simply do not understand it.

"Ding Gang’s view on this particular issue is that, media that has a significant influence on the public should heighten their sense of responsibility. With respect to balanced reporting, news quantities, perspectives and positions, media should be cautious in making statements and careful in their conduct so as to play a positive role on international issues concerning China’s interests, such as China-U.S. relations. Media should stick to its own position—media should not give up independent thinking and proceed to follow the tune of western countries."

Translated by CHINASCOPE from