July 15th, 2011
01:42 PM ET

China seen overtaking U.S. as global superpower

Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt of a new Pew Global Attitudes poll.

In most regions of the world, opinion of the United States continues to be more favorable than it was in the Bush years, but U.S. image now faces a new challenge: doubts about America’s superpower status.

In 15 of 22 nations, the balance of opinion is that China either will replace or already has replaced the United States as the world’s leading superpower. This view is especially widespread in Western Europe, where at least six-in-ten in France (72%), Spain (67%), Britain (65%) and Germany (61%) see China overtaking the U.S.

Majorities in Pakistan, the Palestinian territories, Mexico and China itself also foresee China supplanting the U.S. as the world’s dominant power. In most countries for which there are trends, the view that China will overtake the U.S. has increased substantially over the past two years, including by 10 or more percentage points in Spain, France, Pakistan, Britain, Jordan, Israel, Poland and Germany. Among Americans, the percentage saying that China will eventually overshadow or has already overshadowed the U.S. has increased from 33% in 2009 to 46% in 2011.

At least some of this changed view of the global balance of power may reflect the fact that the U.S. is increasingly seen as trailing China economically. This is especially the case in Western Europe, where the percentage naming China as the top economic power has increased by double digits in Spain, Germany, Britain and France since 2009.

In other parts of the globe, fewer are convinced that China is the world’s leading economic power. Majorities or pluralities in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America still name the U.S. as the world’s dominant economic power.

In the Middle East, Palestinians and Israelis agree that America continues to sit atop the global economy, while in Jordan and Lebanon more see China in this role. Notably, by an almost 2-to-1 margin the Chinese still believe the U.S. is the world’s dominant economic power.

These are among the key findings from a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, conducted March 18 to May 15.  The survey also finds that, in the U.S., France, Germany, Spain and Japan, those who see China as the world’s leading economic power believe this is a bad thing.

By contrast, those who name the U.S. tend to think it is good that America is still the top global economy. In developing countries those who believe China has already overtaken the U.S. economically generally view this as a positive development. Meanwhile, in China, those who believe the U.S. is still the world’s leading economy tend to see this as a negative.

Compared with reaction to China’s economic rise, global opinion is more consistently negative when it comes to the prospect of China equaling the U.S. militarily. Besides the Chinese themselves, only in Pakistan, Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Kenya do majorities see an upside to China matching the U.S. in terms of military power.

Meanwhile, the prevailing view in Japan and India is that it would not be in their country’s interest if China were to equal the U.S. militarily; majorities across Western and Eastern Europe, and in Turkey and Israel, share this view.

To read the full Pew Global Attitudes report, click here.

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Topics: China • Poll • President Obama • United States

soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. Mycology

    first. And God bless the USA.

    July 15, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  2. j. von hettlingen

    China has a centralised state system. The economic power and military strength is determined by a small percentage of the population. When the top-down governance works, the country functions. With better living conditions, people would automatically have expectations. I do think that China would have to devote itself more to domestic affairs and leave the military hegmeony to the U.S.

    July 15, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • individual

      China's wealth is from wealthy corperate americans taking our jobs over to China, ( WHICH ENDED UP FAILING, because China will boycott america goods in china )why do you think our job loss is directly linked to their job growth???? Wake up America

      July 28, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • HonoH Tron









      December 8, 2011 at 8:32 am |
  3. Zhuubaajie

    The trend is pretty clear by now. And as long as America continues to be mired in this derivatives driven doldrums, not much is going to change.

    Financial derivatives is where you can discern the biggest difference between the two systems. After 2008, both countries enacted rules to further tighten up regulations on the derivatives industry. In China, the big banks can no longer participate in major derivative trades. Instead, they went back into the business of banking, and they were told to LEND to the China economy. As a result, China merely had a brief pause after 2008, and the growth quickly rose back up to 9.5% a year.

    In contrast, in America, the well-meaning bank reform regs never saw the light of day. Implementation has been deferred 28 times (!!) since 2008, now with a new deadline (which in most likelihood will again get deferred) by year end 2011. As a direct result, the too large to fail banks continue to gamble in the derivatives casino, now at over $600 Trillion (over 40 TIMES the US GDP), and they collectively refused to lend to small businesses. Bank of America reduced their small business lending by over 90% (only 300 some SBA loans were made for the whole year), and reported that almost all of its profits $62 billion for the year were from "trading".

    "Trading" = risks. There are 2 sides to a trade and only one side wins, and the big banks do not always win. Lehman Brothers owned $300B in derivatives and incurred losses of $6B, which wiped out it capital base. 2% ($6B out of $300B) of $600 Trillion is much more than the total capital base of the ENTIRE U.S. financial industry.

    Life is about choices. American leader elites continue to decide that freedom to bear arms is supreme, and the CDC continues to report >25,000 gunshot deaths each year, year in and year out. American leader elites decide that it is OK for the big banks to continue trading derivatives, and they WILL INDEED continue to trade at the expense of the future of generations of Americans yet unborn, comfortable in the belief that if they win in the Wall Street sized bets (HUNDREDS OF TRILLIONS OF USD), they get record bonuses, and if they lose, well, Americans pick up the tab.

    Today the results of this system of banks that don't bank are for everyone to see: no loans, no growth, no jobs in America.

    All nations are ran by elites. The ability of the system to choose qualified and dedicated elites who would selflessly and wisely lead the nation, would determine which nation will prosper in the 21st Century.

    July 15, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • dfsadfsadf

      you had a point till the gun talk. how many swimming pools kill each year? cars? no ones trying to ban those, and wether you like it or not, the 2nd amendments is as much a part of this land as the 1st, which we so happily are practicing on each other at the moment ^^.

      July 24, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
      • individual

        agreed. If citizens in America did not have a right to bear arms, China would just walk in and take over..China wants to take over America..and if this debt celing does not go through..they will march in and take land...in return for their bonds..

        July 28, 2011 at 11:27 am |
      • Kaiviertel

        My god, you people are sheep! Do you really think that China will just hop on boats and invade the US? How do you think they will invade? Well, here's an idea. Perhaps china will wage an economic war against the faltering American economy. What good will your precious 2nd amendment do you then? Not everything is solved with the ridiculous philosophy- "from my cold dead hands!"

        August 13, 2011 at 2:29 am |
  4. That'snotTrue:[

    Should people be surprised at all.......especially with all the wars the US is in and the wars are on credit....not 100% out of their own pockets?

    July 15, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  5. SarahPalin

    I can see China from my back yard. I like chinese food too. When you elect me President, I will invite small chinese people to come to the white house to feed my rich republican friends. Then we will poop on them.

    July 15, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • reiner

      The stats I love most is that a 85%-88% Chinese feel satisfied and good with their government direction and economic situation which is much higher than America’s embarrasing 21%-18%. It's even higher than 2 years ago when China's CPI was as low as -1.8%, and most important, when it was Jasmine free.
      How annoying it must be, especially to the American revolution exporter NED and Palin who thinks China is beside Mexico, lol!.

      July 15, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
      • individual

        Don't be surprised, it is illeagle for Chineese to talk badly of their own government..so OF COURSE THEY SAY THAT...CHina is communist, not democratic..you do not have a right in China to say bad about the government..just imagine if CHINA tries to take over America..then you TOO would be punished if you spoke badly or against the government..

        July 28, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  6. Walter

    Generally a nations power can be measured in terms of political, economic and military. Clearly the U.S. is currently the leading military power. It is also, by almost all measures, the leading world economic power. Then there is the question of political power. Generally political power is the last to go as great powers decline. This is because upcoming nations generally need to take time to leverage their economic and military power into political power. Also, if you look at the current state of the various world organizations, the U.S. still has a massive influence in most of them.

    People are being too influenced by all the media narratives concerning China's rise. They should read Zakaria's articles in GPS instead. 🙂

    July 15, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Lee

      I am surprised that you would say America is the "leading world economic power by almost all measures".

      I am not even sure if America has the ability to repay merely the interests on its debts without resorting to the printing machine, let alone declaring itself the most economically strong on the planet.

      July 16, 2011 at 5:15 am |
    • david

      I agree with your stance. what happend when america deflated in 2007? Other parts of the world economy faced economic retribution. America has a very hig influence on world affairs, so high, that, most of the stuff that you hear about defaulting and losing to china, is political propoganda to keep certain powers in control of their place. America basically controls the worlds economy, less the g20. Even then, who has the most shares in the banks for which these countries represent? think about it.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  7. reiner

    The stats I love most is that a 85%-88% Chinese feel satisfied and good with their government direction and economic situation which is much higher than America’s embarrasing 21%-18%. It's even higher than 2 years ago when China's CPI was as low as -1.8%, and most important, when it was Jasmine free. LOL! How annoying, especially to the American revolution exporter NED.

    July 15, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
    • individual

      it is against the law for chineese to talk aginst government in any way..of COURSE they would say only good things..

      July 28, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  8. fernace

    China is a communistic land & gov't! Therefore to express an individual thought or opinion is Very Unusual! China is "ruling" because all the other ruling class nations have a low or no economy & borrowing heavily from China! The rest of the world is creating this problem, while China smiles & lends $$!!

    July 16, 2011 at 12:13 am |
  9. Jack Bower

    Well just only check Martin Jacques WHEN CHINA RULES THE WORLD and wonder. He had it all figured out in 2009 – and a big bang followed... As you can see from the results too, I think.

    July 16, 2011 at 2:28 am |
  10. Shafi Khan

    I feel that China should challenge the U.S. hegemony in military matters, as long as it fails to do so it will always run the risk of being arm-twisted by by the former, though there is a vast leeway between the two in technological superiority, but with with the present trend, I feel China may bridge the gap in years to come.

    July 16, 2011 at 8:46 am |
    • Peikovian

      China is a one-party police state. Urging it to confront the world's oldest multi-party, elected republic is to the advantage of what twisted agenda, exactly?

      July 16, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  11. mopo

    'SEEN AS" explains it all. Appearances do not really matter in the real world or in the long run. In reality things could not be more different.... Do not worry yourself with China, it is a success story balloon just about to burst...and than they will add even financial catastrophe to the existing list of catastrophes (humanitarian, environmental). What a waste of nation. God help them all.

    July 19, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
  12. david

    china was always a strong nation, there is no change there. Their recognition in the global community is a political ploy. america is still a strong nation, what we need are stronger leaders.

    July 21, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  13. Greg Autry

    "China" becoming a superpower or even the world leader is not a problem and as some say may be historically inevitable. However, the Chinese Communist Party doing so is a global nightmare in the making. This will not be like the US taking over from Britain and the world must unite to stop this from happening. China must be contained until its people enact regime change. The failed Kissinger "engagement policy" has only been feeding the tiger, not taming it.

    Greg Autry, co-author of Death by China

    July 22, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  14. But

    Yes, but how many Chinese are on the World's richest people list? Ah-ha! Ah-ha! Oh, wait...that merely shows that we funnel our dollars to the super-wealthy and end up more aristocratic and monopolized than they are...oops...

    July 22, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • individual

      China's wealth is from wealthy corperate americans taking our jobs over to China, ( WHICH ENDED UP FAILING, because China will boycott america goods in china )why do you think our job loss is directly linked to their job growth???? Wake up America..

      July 28, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  15. China One

    Until China can learn to be a multi party political system, there is very little chance that China can be a global superpower. I can't imagine the world wants to emulate China for government. They may gain economic power but until they are willing to sacrifice their hard earned money like the usa, they are not going to be able to be the superpower they we envision.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • Moose

      Not being a multi party political system will not prevent China from being a superpower. The Soviet Union was a single party state and it was a superpower, I would even say that for a brief period in the late 50's to early-mid sixties, it was the dominant superpower in regards to influence in the world. China will be a superpower, however I don't see either being more dominant on a global scale, rather a more regional one.

      August 2, 2011 at 10:51 am |
  16. Ted Ward

    This is where political correctness, Washington's ideological gridlock, and worriying aobut whether people "like"us or not has gotten us. We need to take a hard-nosed realistic look at our economy and return to running our country in a more business-like fashion. No more huge federal deficits, overblown military spending, and non-existent "shovel ready" infrastructure projects. Oh, and a little real LEADERSHIP in the White House might help, too. We need more than a community organizer in the oval office. We need a statesperson who knows how to govern.

    August 4, 2011 at 4:06 pm |

    Some of you people have your heads buried in the sand....China's big dream is to overtake the USA.
    When I lived in China, I learned a simple truth.....you can put your wallet on the bar, that is full of people from all over the world, and 100 percent of the time, a chinaman will steal it...all others won't even glance at it...
    There is a lesson there.

    August 12, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  18. coattail

    well, I really cannot understand how a country under dictatorship can be a superpower, many western people haven't been in China , so they cannot feel the pressure of politics in China and the corruption is much out of your expectation, the official people take advantage of their power and do what they want, they send their children to the US , get a green card, and their mission inside PRC is to get money as much as possible, what the dictator government should firstly consider is how to maintain their control instead of overtaking the US. Overtaking the US, GDP may can accomplish that on day in the future(1.3 brillion people,anyway), but a country's power is much more than GDP. China cannot be a superpower and a friendly country unless the communism disappear.

    December 5, 2011 at 11:15 am |
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  20. Marco hsiao

    [Not so early but it is inevitable]

    In my research China (4800 years history, Mainland China + ROC Taiwan + Hong Kong + Macau) will be largest economy only after 2025; but it will last for next 1000 years.

    July 19, 2013 at 5:58 am |

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