Poll: China Viewed More Favorably than USA

A Pew poll of public opinion among U.S. allies around the world, Communist China had a higher approval rating than the United States in all but a few countries.

Poll: In wake of Iraq war, allies prefer China to U.S. (AP)

The United States’ image is so tattered overseas two years after the Iraq invasion that communist China is viewed more favorably than the U.S. in many long-time Western European allies, an international poll has found. The poor image persists even though the Bush administration has been promoting freedom and democracy throughout the world in recent months — which many viewed favorably — and has sent hundreds of millions of dollars in relief aid to Indian Ocean nations hit by the devastating December 26 tsunami.

“It’s amazing when you see the European public rating the United States so poorly, especially in comparison with China,” said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, which surveyed public opinion in 16 countries, including the United States.

In Britain, almost two-thirds of Britons, 65 percent, saw China favorably, compared with 55 percent who held a positive view of the United States.

In France, 58 percent had an upbeat view of China, compared with 43 percent who felt that way about the U.S. The results were nearly the same in Spain and the Netherlands.

The United States’ favorability rating was lowest among three Muslim nations which are also U.S. allies — Turkey, Pakistan and Jordan — where only about one-fifth of those polled viewed the U.S. in a positive light.

Only India and Poland were more upbeat about the United States, while Canadians were just as likely to see China favorably as they were the U.S.


“The position of the United States as the one surviving superpower is to be assertive in responding in a world of terrorism. But in the rest of the world, there is a great wariness about that,” said John Danforth, the former Republican senator from Missouri who also was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He is now a St. Louis attorney.

The poll found a positive reaction in European countries to President George W. Bush’s campaign for more democracy in countries around the world. People in Muslim countries were wary of the U.S. campaign, but supportive of the idea of democracy in their own countries.
Danforth said the attitudes in the Mideast about democracy were a bright spot. “We should keep plugging away on democracy,” Danforth said. “But we need to do a better job of communicating what we’re trying to do.”

The survey found that a majority of people in most countries say the United States does not take the interests of other countries into account when making international policy decisions.
It also found most would like to see another country get as much military power as the United States, though few want China to play that role.

People in most countries were more inclined to say the war in Iraq has made the world a more dangerous place. Non-U.S. residents who had unfavorable views of the United States were most likely to cite Bush as the reason rather than a general problem with America.

The polls were taken in various countries from late April to the end of May with samples of about 1,000 in most countries, with more interviewees in India and China and slightly less than 1,000 in the European countries. The margin of sampling error ranged from 2 percentage points to 4 percentage points, depending on the sample size.

Some of this reflects the natural resentment that power generates and some of it is sheer ignorance about the policies of China. Still, there’s no doubt that the Iraq War was unpopular from the outset and that pressing it has hurt our standing in world opinion. So be it.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    I dunno, being disliked around the world could hurt us if, say, the Europeans decide to initiate eminent domain proceedings.

    They could certainly make the claim that our country, under their administration, would produce more tax revenue…

  2. Jim Henley says:

    James, what is the “ignorance of the policies of China” you identify here?

  3. James Joyner says:

    Jim: Clearly, most people don’t have any clue of the brutal repression of the domestic population, let alone Tibet and such, if they hold China is relatively high regard. I can understand why some hold the U.S. in low regard but not why anyone would be pro China.

  4. Jim Henley says:

    James, I’m not so sure they don’t have any clue. I think the driver here is clearly the respective nation’s foreign and especially military policies. China makes selective trouble on its borders (Tibet and Taiwan) but is globally circumspect. The US may be many things, but militarily circumspect is not one of them.