CSIS surveyed the U.S. Public to map their views of U.S. China policy. The interactive graph below represents how the U.S. public answered key questions on national security, economic, and human rights issues. Respondents were asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how much risk the United States should take to defend U.S. allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific if they come under threat from China, as well as advance human rights in China. Respondents were also asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how much the United States should continue trade and investment cooperation with China.
Key Takeaways & Analysis
Overall, 54% of the U.S. public names China as the country posing the greatest challenge to the United States—Russia is a distant second at 22%.
A plurality of the U.S. public (45%) thinks the best approach toward China on national security concerns is to prioritize cooperation with allies and partners even if it harms relations with China.
Americans are prepared to take considerable risk to defend allies and partners if they come under threat from China.
On a scale of 1–10 where "10" means worth taking significant risk, the survey reveals mean scores of 6.00 or more for defending South Korea (6.92), Japan (6.88), Taiwan (6.69), and Australia (6.38), as well as an unnamed ally or partner in the South China Sea (6.97).
Overall, 60% of the U.S. public thinks a major U.S.-China military conflict is possible but not likely; 26% believe that conflict is likely; and 11% think it is inevitable.
Americans are divided about whether to prioritize international agreements or direct bilateral tariffs to pressure China to change its economic policies.
Overall, 35% of the public supports using international agreements and rules to pressure China to change its economic policies, while 33% support using unilateral tools such as economic sanctions and tariffs to pressure China.
A plurality (42%) of the U.S. public thinks the administration’s approach has damaged U.S. economic interests without achieving positive change in China, and 21% believe it has hurt U.S. consumers and exporters but protected important U.S. industries. In contrast, 28% believe the administration’s approach has been effective in producing some tactical changes in Chinese economic policy, while only 10% think it has been effective in forcing major long-term changes in Chinese economic policy.
On a scale of 1–10 where "10" means "worth putting other priorities at significant risk," the mean response from the U.S. public was 6.79 (6.9 with respect to Hong Kong, 6.66 for Tibet and Xinjiang, and 6.73 for rights of dissidents in China).
The public is relatively less pessimistic than thought leaders about the impact of Covid-19 on American influence vis-à-vis China in the world.
While 33% of U.S. thought leaders think China will gain more influence globally relative to the United States because of the Covid-19 pandemic, 23% of the public are unsure of the impact, 18% believe the United States will gain more influence, and only 16% believe that China will gain more influence.