It’s an almost universal rule of human nature that people living all around the world have differing perceptions about the people in other countries. That is as true in the U.S. as it is in Kazakhstan as perceptions of other countries are rarely fact based, and are largely created from cultural memes and almost inevitably colored by “facts” provided in a one-sided education.
The cultural nature of the construction of perceptions about other nations does not mean these perceptions are not real or accurate. Quite the contrary — people do firmly believe in their cultural constructions of others, and will act on the basis of those beliefs.
A June 23rd report from Pew Research highlights that China’s star is ascending in terms of the global perceptions/popularity as well as economically and militarily. That said, the United States is still considered the leading global economic power by most people worldwide.
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U.S. still considered world’s leading economic power
Of note, among the 40 countries surveyed in spring 2015 Pew Research survey, a median of half that they believe the U.S. is the current world’s leading economic power. A mere 27% across these nations responded that China is the top global economy. Of interest, a median of 6% replied that Japan was the leading economy, and another 5% said the EU was the leading economy.
The U.S. is still the economic top dog in the minds if majorities or pluralities in 30 of 40 countries, including all of the African and Latin American countries involved in the survey.
Not surprisingly, Americans generally believe their country is the leading economic power (46%), but 36% responded China. In Canada, 46% of respondents said China is the top global economy and 34% chose the U.S.
The Pew survey reports a notable increase in the belief that the U.S. is the world’s economic superpower over the last couple of years. Of particular interest are greater than 10% gains in India, the Palestinian territories, Kenya, Ghana, Pakistan, Uganda, Venezuela, Malaysia, Senegal, Nigeria, Ukraine and South Africa.
China’s global image on the upswing
The survey also showed that majorities or pluralities in 27 of the countries surveyed have positive sentiments towards China. Pew notes that China’s image has improved in the last year across the countries polled. Moreover, this positive point of view is particularly evident among the younger generation.
However, it is clear that China’s human rights record is major drawback to its reputation. The survey highlighted that most people across the globe believe that the Chinese government regularly violates the personal freedoms of its citizens.
China to overtake U.S. as economic power
Of note, people around the world generally believe that China either will eventually replace or already has replaced the U.S. as the world’s leading superpower. In fact, majorities or pluralities in 27 of 40 countries surveyed believe this. However, in no country does over 26% say China has already replaced the U.S., with most believe China will move into first place in the future.
A surprising number of Americans believe China has replaced or will eventually replace the U.S. as the world’s leading superpower (46%), and an almost equal number (48%) say that China will never replace the U.S. Canadians believe that China will or has replaced the U.S. as the leading global superpower by 52%-40%.
A majority of respondents in all EU countries agree that China will become the world’s top power, with percentages from 66% in France to 46% in Poland. In fact, among the regions, Europeans are most certain that the U.S. will eventually be surpassed.
Citizens of countries in the Middle East also generally believe that China will overtake the U.S. at some point, including 56% of Israelis.
The Pew report notes that nations in Asia and the Pacific have the widest range of opinions when it comes to China’s status. Of interest, a median of 41% of Asian Pacific countries say China will or already has supplanted the U.S. as the premier global superpower, and another 38% believe it will never happen.
More than 67% in China, 66% in Australia, 59% South Korea and 53% Pakistan responded that China will eventually be the leading power globally. A plurality of Malaysians said the same thing, but Indians were split almost 50/50. Finally, regional American allies were less likely to see China taking the lead in the future, with 77% of Japanese, 67% Vietnamese and 65% of Filipinos replying China will never replace the U.S. as the number one global superpower.