CSIS surveyed U.S. thought leaders who are influential in the debate on international and/or Asian regional affairs to map their views on U.S. China policy. The interactive graph below represents how U.S. thought leaders 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 important is it for the United States to maintain economic cooperation with China in various areas.
Key Takeaways & Analysis
An overwhelming majority of U.S. thought leaders want to work with allies and partners to respond to the challenge from China even if it hurts relations with Beijing.
Of thought leaders surveyed across all sectors, 81% believe the emphasis in U.S. national security strategy toward China should be on prioritizing cooperation with allies and partners even if it harms relations with China.
U.S. thought leaders are prepared to take considerable risk to defend U.S. allies and partners, including Taiwan, against military threats from China.
On a scale of 1–10, where "10" means "worth taking significant risk," the survey revealed mean scores of 7.00 or more for defending Japan (8.86), Australia (8.71), South Korea (8.60), and Taiwan (7.93), as well as an unnamed ally or partner in the South China Sea (7.12).
On a scale of 1–10, where "10" means "worth putting other priorities at significant risk," the mean response from thought leaders overall was 7.04 (7.40 with respect to Hong Kong, 6.92 for Tibet and Xinjiang, and 6.79 for rights of dissidents in China).
A strong majority of national security and business experts favor banning Huawei from the U.S. 5G market.
Although a large majority oppose broad-based decoupling, more than two-thirds of respondents support blocking Huawei from the U.S. 5G market (35% would also ban the trade of high-tech components with Chinese companies such as Huawei, and another 17% would do that and sanction third countries that do not do the same).
When asked to select promising areas for increased U.S.-China cooperation, the first choice among American thought leaders overall is addressing climate change (37% of "first choice" responses), followed by global health (14%) and student/scholarly exchange (11%). However, some focus group discussion participants pointed out that cooperation on an issue such as climate change could include student and scholarly exchange and that these are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
When asked to select significant causes of U.S.-China confrontation, the first choice among American thought leaders overall is the Trump administration’s policies (24% of "first choice" responses), followed by China’s assertive military and foreign policy (15%), a power shift that made confrontation inevitable (14%), and Xi Jinping’s authoritarian leadership style (14%).
Thought leaders think China and the United States will both lose influence globally because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Among thought leaders, 45% believe that U.S.-China competition in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic will cause both countries to lose influence globally, while 33% think China will gain relative influence globally.