By MATTHEW LEE
AP Diplomatic Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are increasingly hostile to China as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on the U.S. and global economies and after three years of Trump administration antagonism toward the country.
The nationwide poll released on April 21 was conducted last month by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. It found that two-thirds of those surveyed had an unfavorable view of China. That’s the most since the center first asked the question 15 years ago and a significant jump of 20 percentage points since President Donald Trump entered the White House in 2017. The results suggest that Americans are receptive to the Trump administration’s broad antagonism toward China, which has increased in recent weeks over criticism of Beijing’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
The poll suggests the change is so far not directly linked to the coronavirus outbreak, that the Trump administration’s trade war with China and relentless criticism of its policies may be having that effect. The upward trend in negative views began in 2019, and the survey did not find changing attitudes toward China over the course of March, when the virus outbreak was rapidly progressing.
“Since President Donald Trump took office in 2017, his approach to U.S.-China relations has included increased pressure via tariffs and trade war rhetoric, and now, with the onset of an unprecedented pandemic, the stage has been set for both sides to cast aspersions on the other,’’ the authors said.
The poll of 1,000 Americans found unfavorable opinions of China are shared across party lines, with about 70% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and 60% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents holding them. In addition, the poll shows that about 90% of those surveyed see growing Chinese power and influence as a threat.
At the same time, with both the U.S. and Chinese economies reeling from the pandemic, the poll found that Americans recognize that the United States is the world’s leading economic power and the world’s leading military power. A significant majority, 91%, believe that the world is better off with American rather than Chinese leadership.
The survey also found that about 90% of Americans see growing Chinese influence and power as a threat, with 62% of those saying it is a “major threat.’’ And, while the total seeing China as a threat has not changed since 2018, the percentage viewing China as a “major threat’’ has jumped 14 percentage points in the past two years, according to the results.
The poll was conducted throughout March when the impact of the virus pandemic was beginning to be recognized around the world. However, the findings do not suggest that Americans’ opinions of China worsened as the month went on, with the negative views expressed early in the month matching those later in the month, according to the authors.