Over 40% of Americans now see China as an enemy, a five-year high, a Pew report finds

More than 40% of Americans now label China as an enemy, up from a quarter two years ago and reaching the highest level in five years, according to an annual Pew Research Center survey released Wednesday.

Half of Americans think of China as a competitor, and only 6% consider the country a partner, according to the report. The findings come as the Biden administration is seeking to stabilize U.S.-China relations to avoid miscalculations that could result in clashes, while still trying to counter the world’s second-largest economy on issues from Russia’s war in Ukraine to Taiwan and human rights.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen have both recently visited China in the administration’s latest effort to “responsibly” manage the competition with Beijing. Despite those overtures, President Joe Biden has been competing with former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee in November’s election, on being tough on China.

The Pew report, which is drawn from an April 1-7 survey of a sample of 3,600 U.S. adults, found that roughly half of Americans think limiting China’s power and influence should be a top U.S. foreign policy priority. Only 8% don’t think it should be a priority at all.

For the fifth year in a row, about eight in 10 Americans report an unfavorable view of China, the Pew report said.

“Today, 81% of U.S. adults see the country unfavorably, including 43% who hold a very unfavorable opinion. Chinese President Xi Jinping receives similarly negative ratings,” the report said.

About eight in 10 Americans say they have little or no confidence in Xi to do the right thing regarding world affairs. About 10% said they have never heard of him.

American attitudes toward China have turned largely critical after the U.S. launched a trade war against China in 2018 and since the emergence of COVID-19, which was first reported in China. Beijing’s human rights record, its closeness to Russia and its policies toward Taiwan and Hong Kong also have left Americans with negative views of the country, according to Pew’s previous analyses.

At the same time, the U.S. government has been overt about competing with China on economic and diplomatic issues.

Following that, 42% of Americans say China is an enemy of the U.S., the highest level since 2021, when Pew began asking the question.

The share is much larger among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, Pew said, with 59% of them describing China as an enemy, compared with 28% of Democrats and those leaning Democratic.

Older Americans, conservative Republicans and those with a sour view of the U.S. economy are more critical of China and more likely to consider the country an enemy, the report said.

“Americans also see China more negatively when they think China’s influence in the world has gotten stronger in recent years or when they think China has a substantial amount of influence on the U.S. economy,” said Christine Huang, a Pew research associate.

“Even pessimism about the U.S. economy is related to how Americans evaluate China: Those who think the economic situation in the U.S. is bad are more likely to see China unfavorably and to see it as an enemy,” she added.

Pew said a nationally representative sample of 3,600 respondents filled out online surveys and that the margin of error was plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.