Asia is 'most important region' for US interests

By Qin Jize (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-01-17 09:53
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BEIJING - As United States President Barack Obama prepares to host his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao this week, his fellow Americans increasingly see Asia as the region of the world most important to US interests and want to build stronger Sino-US ties.

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A nationwide poll by Pew Research Center in Washington DC found that nearly half of respondents said Asia is the most important region, compared with just 37 percent who cited Europe, home to many of the closest traditional allies of the US.

"This marks a major change from the 1990s, when Americans still considered Europe more important than Asia, even despite concern about Japan's supposed ascendance. Today, Europe has taken a back seat," said Andrew Kohut, president of Pew Research Center.

Questioned about their interest in news from various countries, 34 percent of Americans said they were very interested in news from China, while far fewer said the same about France, Germany, Italy and even the United Kingdom.

The survey of 1,503 adults, conducted from Jan 5 to 9, found that relatively few regarded China as an adversary and 58 percent said it is very important to build a stronger relationship between the US and China.

While Americans see China as a rising global power, 43 percent said China is a problem that needs addressing and 27 percent said China is not a problem. The view that China is not a problem is especially common among young people: 42 percent of 18- to 29- year-olds hold this opinion.

US views of China are not extreme in a global perspective. A 2010 Pew Global Attitudes Project survey found roughly half of Americans have a favorable opinion of China.

Kohut also noted that public interest in China is not just academic, as a large majority correctly identify China as the country that holds the most US debt.

According to the survey, growing numbers of Americans recognize China's economic development, with 47 percent of the respondents citing China as the world's top economic power, which was described by Kohut as "incorrect".

Regarding China policy, 53 percent said the US should get tougher with China on trade issues when Obama goes into talks with President Hu.

However, 58 percent said that US policy should try to build stronger relations between the two countries.

"While there is alarm, there isn't quite panic over China's growing economic power," Kohut said.

He said the bottom line is that Americans don't want to demonize China, but they have reservations about the effects of Sino-US trade.

"Worries notwithstanding, most Americans for now continue to hold a favorable view of the rising Asian giant," he added.