Americans warming to China ahead of Xi-Trump summit, poll finds

Story highlights

  • Xi Jinping and Donald Trump set to meet at the President's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida
  • More than a third of those polled say China is principally a military threat rather than an economic one

(CNN)President Donald Trump may have bashed China on the campaign trail, but as he prepares to meet with President Xi Jinping, Americans' feelings towards the country are warming.

Xi and Trump will meet at the President's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida later this week for a series of high-stakes sit-downs.
The timing is good for Xi, according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center, which found 44% of Americans now say they have a favorable opinion of China, up from 37% a year ago. The number who felt unfavorably towards China was also down, from 55% a year ago to 47% now.
Pew surveyed 1,505 people in the United States from February 16 to March 15 for the poll, which has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Economy

According to the report, "the growth in positive ratings for China may be due in part to declining concerns about economic threats from China."
The proportion of Americans who see a trade deficit as a very serious problem has declined from 61% in 2012 to 44% this year, Pew found.
Unsurprisingly, Republicans express more negative attitudes toward China than do Democrats, Pew found, noting that 71% of Republicans feel job losses to China are a very big problem, compared to 47% of Democrats.
Ahead of his meeting with Xi, Trump said that "we can no longer have massive trade deficits and job losses."
He also signed two executive orders aimed at combating trade practices the White House said are abusive. But analysts warn that attempts to persuade American firms to make their goods somewhere other than China could backfire, and there's no guarantee they'll bring factories back to the US.
Many US brands -- including the shoe firm owned by Trump's daughter Ivanka -- still use Chinese suppliers. Producing more of those goods in the US would create low-paying jobs, but it would also make them more expensive, pushing up the cost of living for Americans.

Military

"On balance, Americans today tend to be more concerned about China's economic strength than its military prowess," the report said.
Despite that, the share of the public which views China as primarily a military threat has risen over time, from 28% in 2012 to 36% now.
Military tensions between Washington and Beijing have risen in recent years, primarily related to US commitments to its allies in the region.
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The US has attempted to pressure China to act on controlling its ally North Korea's nuclear weapons program, with Trump saying this week that he would go it alone if necessary.
US Defense Secretary James Mattis has also promised American military support for a chain of disputed islands controlled by Japan but claimed by China.
For its part, Beijing has accused Washington on encroaching on its areas of interests in the South and East China Seas, and attempting to contain it militarily.