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On Both Sides of the Pacific, a Grim Outlook Prevails

Updated: April 21, 2022 | By Jason I. McMann, PhD

Against the backdrop of a multiyear trade war, heightened screening of cross-border investments, and persistent tensions over the South China Sea and Taiwan, Morning Consult’s U.S.-China Relations Barometer provides data-driven insights into public perceptions of bilateral relations between the two superpowers, as well as the risks and opportunities that lie ahead for companies and investors. The barometer tracks American and Chinese sentiment on bilateral relations across a variety of domains, including each country’s views of the other, whether they are locked in a cold war, and the likelihood of future military and economic tensions. The barometer is updated monthly.

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

The outlook: The near-term outlook is mixed. Hawkish sentiment among the growing share of Chinese adults who view the United States as an enemy is counterbalanced by U.S. and Chinese adults’ increasingly shared belief that neither country would win a bilateral cold war, and their forecast that tensions will decline in the year ahead. 

How to respond: U.S. companies with operations in China will face a heightened risk of commercial blowback among Chinese consumers if the share who view the United States as unfriendly/an enemy continues to trend upwards. Multinationals and asset managers with a commercial presence and/or financial holdings in both the United States and China should anticipate an increased risk of trade-related tensions linked to China’s unmet obligations under the U.S.-China Phase 1 deal as the Biden administration reviews its tariffs on China through early July. 

Data points to watch:

  • Chinese adults’ perceptions of the United States have hardened amid ongoing U.S.-Russia tensions. The share of Chinese adults who view the United States as unfriendly/an enemy increased by 11 percentage points month-over-month, suggesting the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to portray the United States as responsible for the conflict with Russia — an increasingly close Chinese ally — are bearing fruit.
  • The share of U.S. adults who believe neither country would win a cold war has increased slightly. A majority of adults in the United States and China continue to believe their countries are not in a cold war. But the share of U.S. adults who think a stalemate would be the most likely outcome has continued to rise (up four points since last month), while the share indicating the U.S. would win such a war is trending downwards in nearly equal measure.
  • Fewer U.S. and Chinese adults believe that bilateral military and economic tensions will escalate over the next year. Though muted, these trends suggest that U.S. and Chinese adults see diminished room for trans-Pacific tensions as both countries’ governments struggle to address Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

COUNTRY PERCEPTIONS: THE VIEW ACROSS THE PACIFIC

U.S.-China Bilateral Favorability

Respondents in each country were asked if they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the other country
Data reflects aggregate shares indicating whether respondents view the specified country somewhat/very favorably or somewhat/very unfavorably.

 

 

Allies or Enemies?

Respondents in the United States and China were asked whether they think the other country is an enemy/unfriendly or an ally/friendly

THE NEW COLD WAR CONTEXT

Cold War 2.0, or Something Less?

Respondents were asked whether the United States and China are in a cold war, or just in competition

Projecting a Winner in a War of Attrition

Respondents were asked who would win if the United States and China entered into a new cold war

MILITARY AND ECONOMIC TENSIONS

Perceived Likelihood of Escalating Military Tensions

Respondents in the United States and China were asked to predict the likelihood of bilateral military tensions increasing over the next 12 months

Perceived Likelihood of Escalating Economic Tensions

Respondents in the United States and China were asked to predict the likelihood of bilateral economic tensions increasing over the next 12 months

METHODOLOGY

The U.S.-China Relations Barometer relies on data collected through Morning Consult’s proprietary survey research capabilities. Interviews are conducted online, and data are weighted to approximate representative samples of U.S. and Chinese adults. The U.S. data is weighted based on age, gender, educational attainment, race and region. The China data is weighted based on age, gender, educational attainment and region.

The United States and China country favorability data series are seven-day moving averages of daily data derived from surveys conducted among roughly 14,300 to 27,000 U.S. adults and 670 to 3,400 Chinese adults, with data reported on the first and 15th of each month. The underlying data series for the United States and China have unweighted margins of error of up to 1 percentage point and up to 4 percentage points, respectively. Morning Consult updated its weights for U.S. adults on April 1, 2022.

All other data series reported in the barometer derive from monthly surveys conducted Feb. 12-April 2, 2022, in the United States and Feb. 18-April 5, 2022, in China, among representative samples of approximately 1,000 adults in each country, with unweighted margins of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

About Morning Consult

Morning Consult is a global decision intelligence company changing how modern leaders make smarter, faster, better decisions. The company pairs its proprietary high-frequency data with applied artificial intelligence to better inform decisions on what people think and how they will act. Learn more at morningconsult.com.

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