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Report: Public opinion pivotal to China-US relations

By Zhang Xiaoxi | 2015-10-20 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

The report comes out of the collective effort of renowned experts of political science and international relations.


Recently, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace released a report titled Perception and Misperception in American and Chinese Views of the Other.

Based on polls conducted by think tanks in the two countries, a cross-national team formed by eight scholars performed qualitative and quantitative analyses on data collected, and the report was finalized by Alastair Johnston, professor of China affairs and international relations at Harvard University, and Shen Mingming, a political science professor from Peking University. It aims to provide an unambiguous interpretation of the American and Chinese people’s views of each other to decision makers in the two countries through highlighting the importance of public opinion in building mutual trust and preventing crisis.

In general, Chinese interviewees do not think positively of the US in terms of national image nor do they trust Americans. Nonetheless, they hold deep respect for the industriousness and ingenuity of the American people, according to the analysis by Brian Rathbun, professor of international relations at the University of Southern California. Moreover, Rathbun made it clear that Americans need not consider Chinese patriots to be potential threats to the interests of their own country. At the same time, the US government and society should not frame China as the polar opposite of America while building and branding their own national image, he said.

Johnston emphasized the attitude of the Tea Party members and supporters’ attitudes toward China, given that the faction is likely to play an important role in the 2016 US presidential and Senate elections. Polls suggest that the Tea Party is deeply suspicious of China, insensitive to the country’s domestic affairs and inclined to implement hard-line economic and military policies.

In addition, they accuse the Obama administration of being too soft on China-US foreign policy. In the conclusion section of the report, Johnston pointed out that Americans and Chinese have mixed opinions and feelings on each other, as scholars expected.

Moreover, the report argued that public opinion merits more serious study since it reveals the true meaning of transnational social interaction while placing a check on top-level decision making. A firm grasp of Chinese and American public opinion is beneficial to bilateral relations, according to the report.


Zhang Xiaoxi is a reporter at the Chinese Social Sciences Today.