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China, US have much to work for

By Jiang Jianjian | China Daily | Updated: 2013-07-09 07:10

According to Horizon Research Consultancy Group surveys on Sino-US relations over the past decade, Chinese people basically recognize that the United States is an advanced society and civilization, and offers a high-quality life. They have also shown relatively high interest in American culture, and dating or marrying Americans.

Emotionally, Chinese people's favorable attitude toward the US since 2006 has been above the 50 percent level, which is roughly the same that Americans have toward China.

Economically, Chinese people see the US as China's most important partner, and an important tourist destination, commodity supplier and source of multinational management experience. So we can assume the favorable attitude of both peoples toward each other can ensure the continuity of the basic pattern of Sino-US relations. The only question is: Will there be more competition or more cooperation?

In terms of overall cooperation, however, there is a great cognitive difference in public opinion in the two countries, which is difficult to overcome in the short term. The Chinese pay more attention to politics in international relations, such as US arms sales to Taiwan, the Tibet issue, human rights, the Diaoyu Islands dispute and other issues, because Washington's political actions have a major influence (40 percent) in shaping their views toward the US.

Although Chinese people have to learn to adapt to China's great power status as the country faces increasing criticism and is viewed with greater suspicion, they are still strongly conscious about protecting their history and interests. Therefore, any attempt by the US to provoke Chinese people over major political issues will backfire.

The Barack Obama administration's strategic rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region since 2011 broke the decade-old relative calm in the region. And though the US has repeatedly said it has no intention of containing China, many of its diplomatic and military actions have made Chinese people feel threatened.

Chinese people recognize that their government is investing more energy in international affairs, which is important to make them feel like citizens of a powerful nation. But China's efforts to widen its global influence will clash with the US' ambitions. For example, differences between China and the US over issues such as the Korean Peninsula, the Iranian nuclear issue and environmental protection will continue to persist. Also, China's initiative to play a more active role in the Middle East peace process will become a source of concern for the US.

According to HRCG surveys in 2010 and 2011, Chinese people's primary impression of the US is one of "hegemonism and power politics" (21 percent and 26 percent). In fact, this concern has prompted the Chinese government to put its US-related political issues high on its priority list. For example, Beijing has been urging Washington to take a stand on the Sino-Japanese dispute over the Diaoyu Islands instead of holding an ambivalent position.

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