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.