More than half of Americans don’t have confidence in President Joe Biden’s ability to deal effectively with China, the Pew Research Center reported in a new poll released on Friday.
It was part of a larger survey that showed Americans downbeat about the country’s economic outlook and Biden’s overall performance. Pew found that 37% approve of Biden’s job performance, while 60% disapprove. The survey was conducted March 27-April 2 among 5,079 members of the Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel. (See full survey results here.)
About two-thirds – 65% — of Americans say they are either “not too confident” or “not at all confident” in Biden to deal effectively with China, Pew reported. Some 37% expressed no confidence at all; 28% said they were not too confident. Nearly as many expressed low levels of confidence in him to work to make good decisions about economic policy (61%) as handle relations with China, it said.
U.S.-China relations have been strained by geopolitical factors including Beijing’s close ties to Russia, differences over Taiwan, and American security concerns about TikTok, owned by Beijing-headquartered ByteDance. More than twice as many Americans support the U.S. government banning TikTok as oppose it (50% vs. 22%), Pew found last month. For its part, China already blocks Facebook and Google.
Unfavorable views of China held by Americans were already at a new high last year following Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, according to a poll released by the Pew Research Center last April. Some 82% of those surveyed had an unfavorable opinion of China; that compared with 76% a year earlier and was the highest since at least 2005 (see earlier post here).
U.S.-China business trends have been more mixed in the months since the country scrapped the worst of its “zero-Covid” policy last December. Among American companies with substantial business interests in the country, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook visited China last month; Bloomberg reported on Friday that Elon Musk will be there this weekend, with a possible stop at the company’s Shanghai factory, citing people familiar with the plan. Tesla announced today it will build a new mega factory in Shanghai dedicated to manufacturing the company’s energy-storage product Megapack, according to a report by the state-run Xinhua News Agency.
“It’s still a relationship defined by rivalry, mistrust, and suspicion,” Ken Jarrett, a former president American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, U.S. Consul General in Shanghai, and U.S. Deputy Consul General in Hong Kong said in a recent interview. “U.S. companies are thinking of ways to rebalance their exposure in China. The one word that you hear a lot about from executives in China is a need to de-risk.” (See interview here.)
Among other subjects explored in the latest Pew poll, eight-in-ten Americans are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country today, a share that is little changed over the last year but higher than in early 2021, Pew said.
Just 19% of U.S. adults said current economic conditions as excellent or good, while 46% said conditions are only fair and 35% described the economy as poor, Pew found. Asked to look ahead, Americans’ views of the economic outlook have worsened. “Today, 46% of the public say they expect economic conditions to worsen in the next year, while 36% expect conditions to be about as they are currently and 17% think the economy will improve,” Pew reported. The share of Americans who expect economic conditions to worsen over the next year has increased by six percentage points since January, Pew said.
Americans also hold declining confidence in the wisdom of fellow nationals. “About a quarter of adults (23%) say they have at least ‘a good deal’ of trust in the wisdom of the American people when it comes to making political decisions, compared with 76% who have either ‘not very much’ (63%) trust in their fellow Americans’ political wisdom or ‘none at all’ (13%),” Pew said. The share who has a good deal or a very great deal of trust in the wisdom of the people has plunged by 10 percentage points since last spring and 15 points over the past two years.
At the same time, a growing number of Americans say the U.S. economic system unfairly favors powerful interests, Pew said. Only about 23% said the economic system is generally fair to most Americans; about three-quarters of Americans (77%) say the economic system in the country unfairly favors powerful interests, the research company found. The share saying the system is unfair has increased since 2019 from 71% to 77%.
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