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Americans turn on China, see enemy rather than trading partner, polls show

A recent Pew poll found 89% of Americans consider China a competitor or enemy, rather than a partner. 

Updated: March 16, 2021 - 10:43pm

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Americans have increasingly turned on the notion that China is the United States' best trading partner and increasingly see the Communist-led country as an enemy or competitor, several new polls show. 

The change in voter perception about China comes after former President Donald Trump argued for years that Beijing was a threat to America while Democrats pushed the idea that Russia was the biggest U.S. threat.

Gallup released a poll Tuesday that found 45% of Americans now say China is the greatest enemy of the U.S., more than double the percentage who said so in 2020. That year, the pollster said, Americans were equally as likely to say either China or Russia was the U.S.'s greatest enemy.

"The current shift coincided with a period when the global economy and human activity were severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in China," Gallup said. 

The pollster asked: "What one country anywhere in the world do you consider to be the United States' greatest enemy today?" 

Just 26% responded Russia, while North Korea, Iran and Iraq followed at 9%, 4% and 2%.

But Americans also believe that China is a powerful economic force.

The poll also found half of Americans believe China is the world's leading economic power, while also believing the country is the United States' top enemy. 

"Perceptions of China as the greatest enemy of the U.S. are at a high point in Gallup's trend at the same time its favorable rating is at a low point," the pollster also wrote. "The specific concern some Americans have over China, namely its economic power, is identified as a threat to the vital interests of the U.S. by most Americans."

A late-December 2020 Just the News Daily Poll with Scott Rasmussen found less than 10% of U.S. voters found the People's Republic of China to be an "ally."

The poll also found just 7% of respondents said the Communist-run country was a U.S. ally, while 27% perceived China as an enemy. 

More recently, a Pew Pew Research Center poll showed strong negative attitudes among Americans toward China, with almost nine out of 10 adults seeing the country as hostile or a danger to U.S. interests.

Negative feelings have increased over such issue as human rights, economic friction, China’s authoritarian Communist Party political system and perceptions that China wishes to supplant the U.S. as the world’s sole superpower, the survey results March 4 found.

Respondents specifically cited Chinese actions in Hong Kong, where Beijing has been accused of demolishing freedom of speech and opposition politics, and in Xinjiang, where it has imposed a police state and detained more than 1 million members of the Uyghur and other Muslim minority groups, according to analysis of the survey by the Associated Press

Pew said 89% of Americans "consider China a competitor or enemy, rather than a partner." A total of 48% responded that limiting China’s power and influence is a top priority, up from just 32% who felt that way in 2018, the wire service also reports.