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November 9, 2005                                                                                                      M-156-05

                                            Asian Views of China
China’s burgeoning economy, military expansion and                     Japan: China’s Rapid Rise a Potential Threat
increasingly visible diplomatic presence in East Asia
have set off debates across the region about the                       Japanese views of China are as negative as they have
implications of its growing influence. But aside from the              been at any time over the last decade – a reflection of
common conviction that China is rising, there seems to                 increasing bilateral friction over Japan’s wartime past,
be little consensus among Asian publics about how                      its bid to gain a permanent seat on the UN Security
powerful China will be, or whether its rise is a good                  Council, and competing claims to natural gas fields in
thing or a bad thing for the region.                                   the East China Sea.

Key Findings                                                           ● 66 percent of Japanese have a negative view of
According to recent surveys in seven East Asian                          China, up from only 31 percent two years ago.
                                                                       ● 68 percent think that Japan’s relations with China
● Although publics throughout the region see                             are in poor shape.
  China’s economic power continuing to grow, it is
  China’s immediate neighbors, the South Koreans                       The Japanese public is widely convinced that China is
  and the Japanese – more than the publics in                          on its way to becoming the dominant power in the
  Southeast Asia – who are likely to see Beijing                       region: two-thirds (67%) say China will be the most
  becoming the dominant power in the region over                       influential in East Asia in 5-10 years (only 12% pick the
  the next decade.                                                     U.S.).

● Public reactions to China’s growing influence                        And, although they identify the U.S. as the country that
  range from increasing concern (Japan) to                             will be their closest economic partner in 5-10 years,
  optimism (Malaysia and Thailand) to relative                         China has gained ground rapidly on this measure. Just a
  indifference (Indonesia).                                            year ago, the Japanese public picked the U.S. by a wide
                                                                       margin (58% U.S. to 25% China). Now that margin is
● Outside of Japan, publics tend to feel that                          down to ten percentage points (45% U.S. to 35% China).
  China’s rapid economic growth will have mostly
  positive effects on their own economies.                             Japanese are divided about the effects of China’s
                                                                       economic growth on their own economy: 30 percent see
● None of the publics in the region think that China                   it as primarily negative, 25 percent positive (and 23%
  is likely to become their nation’s top security                      think it will have elements of both).
  partner over the next 10 years. But, at the same
  time, aside from the Japanese, few feel that China                   In both the economic and diplomatic realms, they are
  poses much of a threat to their country.                             more inclined to see China as an adversary and
                                                                       competitor than as an ally and partner (economic: 54%
● Overall opinion of China throughout the region                       to 30%; diplomatic: 57% to 20%). Asked which nation
   does not move in any synchronized way, but                          will be their closest security partner in 5-10 years, they
   reflects the particular circumstances of each                       overwhelmingly pick the U.S. (82%, vs. only 2% each
   country’s own history and the current                               who name China, ASEAN or the EU).
   preoccupations of its public.
* See Appendix for figures showing cross-country comparisons. Findings are based on face-to-face interview surveys conducted with
  representative samples of adults either nationwide (Japan, South Korea, Australia, Philippines) or in urban areas (Thailand, Malaysia,
  Indonesia). See “How the Polls Were Taken” (p. 10) for a more detailed description of the samples. Prepared by Robert J. Levy

South Korea: Rethinking the China Gold Rush

South Koreans have been more likely than other Asian publics to see China as the next big thing.
Looking 5-10 years into the future:

● Three-quarters (75%) say that China will be the most influential country in the region in 5-10

● Two-thirds (68%) believe it will be their closest economic partner.

Until recently, this prospect has been an appealing one for most South Koreans, who have tended to look
at China in somewhat idealized terms as the path to their own prosperity. But in 2004, a clash over
history led many to have second thoughts: Beijing’s claim that the ancient kingdom of Goguryeo (which
straddled the modern China-DPRK border) was part of China sparked a nationalist backlash in South
Korea; favorable opinion of China dropped from 70 percent to 55 percent. The current reading (53%)
shows that there has been no recovery. Three-quarters (74%) say that the bilateral relationship is good
(this is down from 82% in 2004).

Even while China’s stock was running high in South Korea, the public consistently identified the U.S. as
their key security partner in the coming decade. They continue to do so (with 62% choosing the U.S., far
above second-place China, at 12%). Asked if any nation threatens regional stability, a small number
volunteer China (17%, second to Japan at 24%).

Australia: China a Partner for Trade, Not Security

China’s growing trade relationship with Australia has helped to foster a generally positive image among
the Australian public.

●   Two-thirds (67%) express a favorable overall opinion of China, up from about half in 2001, but
    unchanged over the past two years. This is about the same number as have a favorable opinion of the
    U.S. (63%).

●   83 percent feel that Sino-Australian relations are in good shape.

The public tends to see China playing a significant role in the future. Looking ahead 5-10 years,
pluralities pick China as the country that will be:

●   most influential in the region (42% vs. 17% for the U.S.)

●   Australia’s closest economic partner (34% vs. 22% for the U.S. and 23% for ASEAN).

Still, when it comes to security matters, they choose the U.S. as their closest future partner by a wide
margin ( 73%, vs. 6% for ASEAN and 3% for China).

Urban Thailand: Positive Images Predominate

The Thai public tends to look at China in largely favorable terms, as a benign power whose growing
economic influence will benefit Thailand.

●   83 percent have an overall favorable opinion of China, a figure that has changed little over the past
    four years (by comparison, 73% have a favorable view of the U.S.).

●   Virtually all (97%) say that the country’s bilateral relationship with China is good.

Looking 5-10 years into the future, urban Thai are evenly divided about whether the U.S. or China will be
the most influential in the region (37% say the U.S., 33% China), but they are twice as likely to think
China will be their closest economic partner (43% vs. 21% for the U.S.). A large majority (82%) expect
China’s economy to continue to grow over the next 5 years, and most see this as having a largely positive
effect on the Thai economy (66%, vs. only 18% who foresee a negative effect).

While they look to the U.S. to remain their closest security partner in 5-10 years (49% choose the U.S.,
17% China, 15% ASEAN), it is not because of any perceived threat from China:

●     Asked to name the country or group that poses the greatest threat to Thailand’s security, only 1
      percent name China (most name separatist or terrorist groups, and 5% name the U.S.).

●     They see international terrorism, Islamic extremism and the proliferation of WMD as the greatest
      threats to world peace over the next five years. Picking from a list of 7 items, only 2 percent choose
      growing Chinese military power.

●     Asked which of 10 possible images they associate most strongly with China, they rarely choose the
      more sinister options (military threat, violates human rights, bullies other countries). Instead, they
      gravitate toward positive attributes, such as hardworking people, long history and beautiful country.

●     They are as likely to have confidence in China (77%) as in the U.S. (74%) to deal responsibly with
      international problems.

Urban Malaysia: A Love Affair (Especially for the Ethnic Chinese)

2004 – “Malaysia-China Friendship Year” – was marked by high-profile government visits, cultural
exchanges and growing trade contacts. These activities have reinforced the urban public’s already
broadly positive views of China: 91 percent have a favorable opinion of China (up from 82% in 2004) and
96 percent describe the bilateral relationship as good.

Looking 5-10 years ahead, a plurality (38%) see China becoming the most influential nation in the region
twice as many as name Japan (18%), the U.S. (17%) or ASEAN (14%). They also tend to see China
becoming their closest economic partner (36%, vs. 22% who name ASEAN). But a significant part of
this focus on China reflects the views of the ethnic Chinese minority, who make up close to 40 percent of
the urban population.1 Malaysian Chinese are considerably more likely to name China both as an
influential country and as an economic partner (see Figures A, B). Among other ethnic groups, China
falls back into the pack.

          Figure A. Most Influential in East Asia                                         Figure B. Malaysia's Close st Economic
                      in 5-10 Years                                                               Partne r in 5-10 Ye ars
                                                                                                       (top 4 choices from a list of 8)
                     (top 4 choice s from list of 7)
     38                                                                             36                         35
                       26        25 23                                25                                 26                                         26
                                                            23                           22                         20                                   22
          17 18 14          16                 19                          19                 15                                                              17
                                                                 13                                                                     9      10
                                                    7                                              8                     5        6 6

    T otal Sample        Malays            Chinese              Indians             T ot al Sample            Malays          Chinese               Indians

                 China           U.S.    Japan          ASEAN                                          China        ASEAN     Japan         U.S.

1   But they make up only 25 percent of the total national population.

But Malaysians of all ethnic groups tend to see China’s economy expanding (77%) and to see that growth
as a positive thing for Malaysia (69%; only 9% say negative, while 10% see no effect one way or the

Few Malaysians see China as any kind of a threat. At the same time, they are more likely to pick ASEAN
than China as their closest future security partner (40% to 20%). But here again, ethnic Chinese stand
out, with 31 percent naming China, compared with 24 percent who name ASEAN.

With the public’s broad antipathy toward the U.S.,2 they are much more likely to trust China than the U.S.
to deal responsibly with international problems (75% vs. 35% for the U.S.).

Urban Indonesia: China as a Remote, Benign Presence

In April 2005, Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Indonesia in an effort to cement Beijing’s “strategic
partnership” with Southeast Asia. He brought with him commitments for US$10 billion in new Chinese
investments in Indonesian infrastructure, making China one of the largest foreign investors. Indonesian
President Yudhoyono hailed the visit as a “historical milestone” in bilateral relations. But despite China’s
increasingly visible presence in the Indonesian economy and its growing role in the region at large, it
remains generally low on the scope for most urban Indonesians:

●   They do not tend to see China becoming the most influential in the region in 5-10 years – they are
    more likely to mention Japan (29%) or the U.S. (25%) than China (16%, tied with ASEAN at 14%).

●   They are more likely to name ASEAN (29%) and Japan (25%) than China (19%) as their closest
    future economic partner (11% name the U.S.).

On balance, they feel that China’s economic power is likely to increase over the next 5 years (56% say
increase, 24% stay the same; but 19% don’t know or feel they haven’t heard enough to offer an opinion).
As in other countries in the region, there is little concern that China’s growth will cause any harm to the
Indonesian economy (54% see a positive effect, 13% negative, and 18% see no effect at all).

Urban Indonesians look to China neither as a likely security partner nor as a potential threat:

●   They are most likely to choose ASEAN (39%) as their closest security partner in 5-10 years (23%
    name the U.S. and only 4% name China).

●   In an open-ended question, only 2 percent name China as one of the greatest threats to Indonesian
    national security, and only 1 percent pick China (from a list of 7 items) as the greatest threat to world
    peace (international terrorism takes the top billing, with 38%).

●   Asked about images that they associate most strongly with China, only one-in-ten or fewer pick
    military threat or bullies other countries. Instead the most widely chosen image is hardworking
    people (77%).

Overall, urban Indonesians tend to have a favorable opinion of China (66%, compared with 42% for the
U.S.), and to see bilateral relations as good (92%). They are as likely to trust China (46%) as the U.S.
(50%) to deal responsibly with international problems.

2 See M-141-05, “Religion is the Essential Filter in Urban Malaysian Views of the U.S.” for a fuller discussion of
the U.S. image in Malaysia.

The Philippines: China is Fine, but All Eyes Are on the U.S.

The Philippines stands out in Asia as a country so heavily focused on the U.S. that few imagine a
significant role for China:

●   By a wide margin, they choose the U.S. (62%) as the most influential in the region in 5-10 years.
    China (14%) and Japan (12%) trail in second place.

●   62 percent say the U.S. will be their closest future economic partner. Again, Japan (13%) and China
    (10%) bring up the rear. By a somewhat smaller margin than other Asian publics, Filipinos expect
    China’s economic power to increase (42%, vs. 34% who expect no change), and think China’s growth
    will have mostly a positive effect on the Philippine economy (49% to 25% negative; 15% see no

●   When asked which country will be their closest security partner in 5-10 years, they once again see the
    U.S. as the only game in town (72% name the U.S.; 8% or fewer name any other country).

As a result of past sparring over islands in the South China Sea, Filipinos still carry some residual sense
of a China threat. Asked what nation or group threatens Philippine national security, 9 percent name
China – third in line after Iraq (16%) and the local insurgent Abu Sayyaf Group (15%). Still, as other
measures confirm, that sense of threat is limited:

●   In a choice between two visions of China, a small majority (56%) say it is “a peaceful country that is
    more interested in economic growth than in military adventures.” Thirty-five percent choose the
    alternative view of China as “an expansionist power that is building up its military to enforce its
    claims to sovereignty in the South China Sea.”

●   In identifying their key images of China, Filipinos focus on the positives: hardworking people (62%),
    beautiful country (42%); only a handful choose military threat (11%), violates human rights (9%) or
    bullies other countries (7%).

Currently eight-in-ten Filipinos have an overall favorable view of China (81%) and think that the bilateral
relationship is good (82%), and a majority have confidence in China to deal responsibly with international
problems (69%). Even these high readings pale against similar measures of the U.S. (95% favorable,
90% good relations, 92% confidence to deal with world problems).3

3 Fieldwork for this survey was completed before the Philippine press reported accusations that six U.S. marines had
raped a Philippine woman.

           Figure 1. Favorable Opinion of the U.S., China (%)
 91                           95
             83          81
                  73                                                             75
                                       67 63          66
                                                                  53 53
      46                                                   42

Malaysia    Thailand   Philippines    Australia      Indonesia    South     Japan

                   Favorable view of China        Favorable view of U.S.

             Figure 2. Perceptions of Bilateral Relationship
                          with China, U.S. (%)
 97         96                              95
      92                 92                                90
                                       83                                        86
                  74          70                                  74


Thailand   Malaysia    Indonesia      Australia     Philippines    South    Japan
              Relations with China good          Relations with U.S. good

                              Figure 3. Asia's Future Power Center
              Which of these will be most influential overall in East Asia in 5-10 years?
                                   China          U.S.    Japan       ASEAN              Russia

                                                     38                    37
                                    17                   1718               15           16
                    12                       14              14                                   14       14    12
     99                  7               6                                       6
          1                  31                                   1                  3                 1              34

 South              Japan*         Australia         Malaysia          Thailand           Indonesia        Philippines
                              *Data for South Korea and Japan are from 2004 surveys

                      Figure 4. Closest Economic Partner in 5-10 Years (%)

                  43                                                                                   45
                                        36                    34                                     35
                      21                          22               22 23
                        1413                     15                                                                          13
 11                                                                                 11                                10
      8                                      8                      8                                                             8
          3 2                  3                                                                             5
                                                       2                     2                 2                  1                   2

 S. Korea             Thailand           Malaysia              Australia           Indonesia              Japan       Philippines

                                             China          U.S.    Japan         ASEAN         EU

                           Figure 5. Expectations for China's Economy
                                   Over the Next 5 Years (%)

                                   81                                                          42
                 82                                     77                   56                               Increase

                                                                                                              Stay the same
                                   16                                        24
                 10                                     13
                                                         1                   1                 6
           Thailand            Japan*                 Malaysia          Indonesia        Philippines
                        * Japanese question wording: likely/not likely that Chinese economy
                                         will continue to grow at a rapid rate

            Table 6. What kind of effect will Chinese economic growth have
                             on your own economy? (%)

            Malaysia                                    9      11                         69

                Thailand                          18           11                         66

            Indonesia                                 13            23                         54

           Philippines                   25                        17                    49

                  Japan                 30                              33                25

          Negative                      Both positive and negative/no effect                                      Positive
                           Figure 7. Closest Security Partner in 5-10 Years (%)
                                   73                       72

                                                                                                                                                      39                  40

                                                                                                                17                                             20
                                                                                    12                                     15
                                                                 8                                                     8                          8              11
                                             6          6             5 2                     6                                                                       7
   2           2 2             3         2       3                                                2 5                           2        4                 5                   2

        Japan                  Australia               Philippines                   S. Korea                   Thailand                 Indonesia             Malaysia

                                                       China               U.S.               Japan                  ASEAN                   EU

                    Figure 8. Greatest Threat to World Peace in Next 5 Years
                                                                                                                                       International terrorism

                                   38                                                                                                  Islamic extremism

                                                                                                  29                                   Uncontrolled spread of
                                                                          21                               21                          U.S. use of military force
       19                                   20 20
         17                                                      16                                        15
                                                                                                      13 12                            Collapse of politically
                                                                                9                                                      unstable countries
                                                 8                    7
              6 6                       5                                                                                              Growing Chinese military
                                                                                                                     3 2
                    2                                1 1                            1 1                                                power
                                                                                                                                       Japanese militarism
       Thailand                     Indonesia                        Malaysia                     Philippines

                                                                  Figure 9. Images of China
                                   Which of these images do you associate most strongly with China? (%)
                                               (respondents can choose as many as they wish)
83                                                                                                                                               Hardworking people
                                    77                                    77
                                                                                                                                                 Long history
       69                               69                                                                                                       Economic superpower
                                                                                                                62                               Beautiful Country
                                                                                                                                                 Respected by other countries
                                                                                                                                                 Communist country
            44                                                               44
                                                       41                  40
                                                                                                                       42                        Strong educational system
               36                                                                        35                                                      Military threat
                                                                                    32                               32
                                                                                                                           29                    Violates human rights
                    2223                                                                                                                         Bullies other countries
                                                                                     20                                         20
                                                                                                      11                            11
                           9                                                                      8                                      9
                                                             7                                             7                                 7

       Thailand                              Malaysia                           Indonesia                            Philippines

          Figure 10. Perceived Threats to National Security
                             (open-ended question; %)


                                                   9               9
          5                             4                              5
      1                  2                   1

 Thailand            Indonesia          Malaysia              Philippines
                   Terrorism/separatism          China    U.S.

               Figure 11. Confidence in China, U.S. to Deal
               Responsibly with International Problems (%)
     77   74                                       75

                         46        50

  Thailand               Indonesia                Malaysia                 Philippines

                   Confidence in China           Confidence in U.S.

                                       How the Polls Were Taken

Poll results are from face-to-face interview surveys conducted in the summer/fall of 2005 with
representative samples of adults in seven East Asian countries. Samples were chosen by multi-stage
probability selection techniques.

In each country, fieldwork was conducted by a reputable local market research firm using a questionnaire
designed by the Office of Research and translated by the contractor.

Australia                                                Philippines
Fieldwork dates: September 3-25, 2005                    Fieldwork dates: August 18-25, 2005
Sample size: 1506                                        Sample size: 1500
Population surveyed: Nationwide, ages 18+                Population surveyed: Nationwide, ages 15-60
Sampling error: +/- 4 percentage points                  Sampling error: +/- 4 percentage points
Language(s): English                                     Language(s): Tagalog, Cebuano, Bicolano,
                                                                         Ilocano and Ilonggo

Indonesia                                                South Korea
Fieldwork dates: August 6-25, 2005                       Fieldwork dates: September 22-October 7, 2005
Sample size: 2510                                        Sample size: 1506
Population surveyed: Urban (10 cities), ages 18+         Population surveyed: Nationwide, ages 20+
Sampling error: +/- 3 percentage points                  Sampling error: +/- 3 percentage points
Language(s): Indonesian                                  Language(s): Korean

Japan                                                    Thailand
Fieldwork dates: September 22-29, 2005                   Fieldwork dates: August 1-27, 2005
Sample size: 1037                                        Sample size: 1000
Population surveyed: Nationwide, ages 18+                Population surveyed: Urban, ages 15-60
Sampling error: +/- 4 percentage points                  Sampling error: +/- 4 percentage points
Language(s): Japanese                                    Language(s): Thai

Fieldwork dates: August 21-September 19, 2005
Sample size: 1200
Population surveyed: Urban Peninsular Malaysia
                        (10 cities), ages 18+
Sampling error: +/- 4 percentage points
Language(s): Malay, Chinese, English

In addition to sampling error, the practical difficulties of conducting a survey of public opinion may
introduce other sources of error into the results.

Additional technical information on the methodology of the survey may be obtained from the analyst.

For more detailed discussion of views of China in individual countries, see:

“Australians See Strong Ties with U.S., But Many Uncertain about Direction of Foreign Policy,”
M-154-05, November 8, 2005

“Japanese Public’s Increasingly Negative View of China,” M-152-05, November 3, 2005

“South Koreans’ Contrasting Views of China, Japan,” L-33-05, November 1, 2005

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