Chinese rational on China-US ties: GT poll
Respondents like American culture, loathe US hegemony, hope Biden to fix ties
Published: Dec 26, 2020 12:13 AM

China US Photo:VCG

 The year 2020 - the most turbulent year of the 21st century - is not only reshaping the world in many aspects, but also fundamentally changing the mindset of many Chinese people in the way they perceive China and the nation's relations with the world. 

After experiencing the lowest point of relations with the US, Chinese people have formed an unshakable consensus in opposition of US hegemony while remaining rational as to separating American people and culture from its government, according to the latest survey conducted by the Global Times, with Chinese experts saying this can lay the foundation for the two countries to fix relations under the upcoming Biden administration.

The Global Times poll center conducted a survey from December 11 to 17 and collected 1,945 questionnaires from respondents aged 18-69 from 16 major Chinese cities across the country including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Tianjin and Xi'an. 

The survey questions covered the Chinese people's general view on China's ties with other countries such as "which bilateral relationship has the biggest impact on China" and also very detailed questions on specific issues such as "How should China and the US strengthen ties after Joe Biden becomes US president."  

Most participants in the survey still believe ties with the US are the most important bilateral relationship for China, since 47.5 percent of them said the China-US relationship has the biggest impact on China, but compared to data from 2019, which was 82.1 percent, this number has reduced sharply.

Meanwhile, the survey showed that more people are starting to recognize the importance of ties with developing countries. 14.8 percent of respondents chose China's ties with Southeast Asian countries for "the ties that have the biggest impact on China," increasing from 9.2 percent in 2019. 

Experts said that in 2019, the trade war launched by the US dominated international headlines, so most Chinese at that time would have surely believed that ties with the US were important, but after a series of struggles from 2019 to 2020, Chinese people found that the impact from the US' bullying and trade war remains very limited, and many people don't even have any sentiments about it, so these people would have questioned whether the US is really that important.

Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Friday that the poll's results accurately reflect Chinese people's opinions on foreign relations.

"The results also showed that increasingly more Chinese people now have a more rational and in-depth understanding of China's diplomacy and complicated international situation," he said. 

The signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) has made many Chinese people realize that ties with other developing countries are more significant and reliable, especially as the US and some other Western countries are becoming increasingly more hostile and unpredictable, so that's why more people are aware of the importance of developing countries rather than merely looking at major powers, experts said. 

More confident in competition with US

Although some Western media outlets and politicians accuse China of hyping up nationalism or so-called "wolf warrior diplomacy" to launch an offensive against the US, the survey showed Chinese people hold a more comprehensive and objective view of the US.

On the Trump administration, 65.6 percent of participants found it to be "unfavorable," and 53.2 percent found US military forces, which frequently provoke China in the South China Sea and on the Taiwan question, to be unfavorable, while 46.9 percent found the US media, which reports China with bias and arrogance, to be unfavorable as well.

But on US sporting leagues, such as the NBA, only 11.6 percent of participants chose "unfavorable" while 39 percent chose "favorable" and 43.3 percent chose "neutral." 49.9 percent of Chinese participants found US movies and television works, such as Hollywood films, US-made TV series' and animated movies, to be favorable. Regarding American people, 67.2 percent chose "neutral." 

Diao Daming, an expert on US studies at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times that "this proves that the Chinese people's view on the US is objective and pragmatic. On the one hand, they are seriously offended by the unilateral moves made by the US government to harm bilateral ties; but, on the other, their favorable impression toward American society and culture has not been affected too much by some irresponsible moves made by US politicians." 

This lays the necessary foundation for the two countries to repair ties; that is, enhancing people-to-people communication will be important, Diao said.

However, the survey also found that more than 60 percent of participants hold pessimistic views on a new cold war between China and the US. About 28.4 percent of the surveyed believe a China-US cold war is possible, compared to those who believed it is very likely (18.6 percent) or even unavoidable (9.1 percent), and some even believe it has already begun (12 percent).

But they are very optimistic on the result of China-US competition. More than 70 percent believe that China is having more and more advantages amid competition with the US. 

Diao said this is a very impressive result as it proves that US suppression and offensives against China have failed to shake the confidence of the Chinese people on the development of the country and the trend of the international situation; and that the people's trust and support for the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government remains strong.  

For 31.7 percent of the survey's participants, they believed US President-elect Joe Biden will bring certain opportunities to ease China-US tensions, but 28.5 of them remain pessimistic on the new US administration, and 39.8 percent found the situation to still be unclear.

Chinese analysts said this has showed that the Chinese people's sentiments over the incoming Biden administration are mixed with goodwill, worry and uncertainty all featuring prominently.

"After four tumultuous years of the Trump administration, not only Chinese people, but also the rest of the world has something to look forward to with Biden. But the world cannot return to the past, and China-US ties cannot go back either," Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Friday. 

On "in what fields can China boost cooperation with the US after Biden takes office," 48.7 percent chose fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, 44.4 percent chose economy and trade, 39.9 percent chose combating climate change, but 12.1 percent think that "the two countries will not strengthen cooperation." 

Wang noted that the Biden administration is relatively realistic and will find other ways after Trump's brutal yet unsuccessful suppression of China. "The trade war has been going on for more than three years and the US has failed to achieve its goal. The new administration will certainly not continue on the same path."

"There is an American saying that 'if you can't beat them, join them' — but a desire still exists to 'beat China' the American way," Wang said. 

"The US will only sit down and talk to China if China really leads in some areas, which is more likely to happen around 2030," he added.

Expanded global vision

More than half of the Chinese respondents view ties with Russia the most important in terms of China's relations with its neighboring countries, according to the poll.

The poll also suggested that many Chinese also value the country's ties with Japan, and increasingly more people are attaching greater importance to ties with Southeast Asian countries. 

Respondents in recent years have expanded their vision globally, and focused more on China's ties with developing countries, revealed the survey.

This year, 6.7 percent of respondents chose India as the country they deemed as the most influential in terms of bilateral relations for China.

Li said while a provocative India has increased its presence in China, the Chinese people have a rational view on it. "To some Chinese, the importance of the relationship with India is less than that with Southeast Asian countries."

"The role India plays in China's diplomacy cannot be compared with Southeast Asian countries. China has its strength to address the problems caused by India. India should learn to cooperate with China, rather than creating confrontations which would only hurt the country the most," he said. 

According to the survey, public opinion was divided when asked if they believed China's neighboring environment is suitable for the country's peaceful development. Nearly half (48 percent) believed that the situation is beneficial for China's peaceful rise; and 28 percent of respondents held an opposite view. 

"While opinions varied, the mainstream view is still that the surrounding environment does not influence China's peaceful development." Li said.

Rising confidence on world stage

Despite smearing from the West over "wolf warrior diplomacy," more than 70 percent of respondents are supportive of it.

According to the survey, 77.9 percent of respondents believe that China's international image has improved in recent years, and only 6.6 percent of the respondents believe that China's international image has deteriorated. 72.6 percent cited China's successful anti-pandemic efforts as one of the main reasons for this improvement. 

The comparisons made from this poll and those from the West show that China is viewed quite differently in the eyes of Chinese people and some Westerners. 

A Pew Research Center survey indicated that the pandemic intensified distrust and negative views toward China from developed countries in the West. 

Analysts said that Western media and politicians, which screen China's shortcomings with a magnifying glass and go as far as to smear China, provide bad guidance to Western people who do not know much about China. 

"No matter how the West discredits it, it is a fact that China has done a good job in controlling the pandemic and assisting other countries," said Li.

When exchanging with the West, we need to separate the extreme and biased politicians from regular Westerners who see China in a rational and objective way, said Li, noting that the West's political stigmatization of China is not in the interests of the majority of the West.

How Chinese people see the world?Infographic: GT