Polling | 30 November 2009

China and the world: public opinion and foreign policy

The Lowy Institute’s first China Poll is a wide-ranging survey of Chinese public opinion towards a number of important international policy issues. By what do the Chinese people feel threatened? How do they feel about foreign investment from Australia, Canada and the United States? Which country do the Chinese people regard as the best place to be educated and what do they think of Australia – is it a good place to visit, a country with attractive values or is it suspicious of China? Photo: Flickr user Max Braun.

  • Fergus Hanson
  • Andrew Shearer

The Lowy Institute’s first China Poll is a wide-ranging survey of Chinese public opinion towards a number of important international policy issues. By what do the Chinese people feel threatened? How do they feel about foreign investment from Australia, Canada and the United States? Which country do the Chinese people regard as the best place to be educated and what do they think of Australia – is it a good place to visit, a country with attractive values or is it suspicious of China? Photo: Flickr user Max Braun.

  • Fergus Hanson
  • Andrew Shearer
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Key Findings

  • Fifty per cent of Chinese people said the United States posed a threat to China’s security. Of those, most (77%) agreed strongly or somewhat it was because it might seek to restrain China’s growing influence in the world.

Executive Summary

Most Chinese people seemed relatively content with the level of respect China receives from other countries. Sixty per cent said either China receives more respect than it deserves or about the right amount of respect. Of nine possible threats, it was non-traditional threats that most worried the Chinese people. ‘Environmental issues like climate change’ and ‘water and food shortages’ topped the list with 76% and 67% respectively saying they were a threat. Fifty per cent of Chinese people said the United States posed a threat to China’s security, while only a slim majority (51%) said Japan did not pose a threat. Larger majorities said India (60%), Russia (71%) and North Korea (81%) did not pose a threat.

Of the five countries, the United States was considered the greatest threat to China’s security by one third (34%) of Chinese adults: only 14% said Japan and India posed the greatest threat.

Of the 50% of Chinese people who said the United States posed a threat to China’s security, most (77%) agreed strongly or somewhat it was because it might seek to restrain China’s growing influence in the world or (76%) because it might support separatist elements in China. Most other reasons tested also received similar but lower levels of agreement.

Younger Chinese adults tended to be more likely than their elders to say China was receiving less respect than it deserved and that Japan and the United States posed a threat.