Two years ago, Americans tended to see Russia as the nation’s number one threat. Years of the media incessantly pushing Russia as a threat may have had something to do with that. Economically, Russia has not been competitive with the United States and if it had not inherited the Soviet Union’s seat on the UN Security Council, it would probably have slipped farther down in influence than it has. Russia doesn’t have a Belt and Roads Initiative, and it doesn’t have a Thousand Talents Plan, because it cannot afford either. Russia does have energy which it uses as a cudgel, but it fears the West Texas crackers who until recently made the United States the world’s top energy producer.
Two years later, with the Democrats’ Russia hoax debunked, a deadly pandemic originating from China, and that nation’s actions ever since, the script has been flipped. Now, according to a new Gallup poll, fully 45% of Americans see China as our greatest threat.
Forty-five percent of Americans now say China is the greatest enemy of the U.S., more than double the percentage who said so in 2020. That year, Americans were equally as likely to say either China or Russia was the U.S.’s greatest enemy. The current shift coincided with a period when the global economy and human activity were severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in China.
It also coincides with China behaving like a threat, from covering up the COVID outbreak during the early critical days when it could have been stopped, to swallowing up Hong Kong, to issuing warnings about Taiwan, to bullying the NBA.
It’s a fascinating turn, given the results of last year’s elections, in which the candidates staked out very different positions on China — one in sync with this poll’s results, the other very much out of sync with it — yet the latter won. Fascinating indeed.
The Feb. 3-18 poll also finds favorable views of China among U.S. adults falling for the second straight year, putting the figure at a historically low 20%.
Who is in that 20%? You’d have to work hard to find much positive to say about China after the past year. It’s running forced labor/concentration camps right now.
There are noticeable partisan differences in perceptions of the greatest enemy of the U.S, with Republicans naming China as the top country and Democrats citing Russia. While 76% of Republicans name China as the greatest enemy, 43% of independents and 22% of Democrats do so. Conversely, close to half of Democrats name Russia (47%) compared with one in four independents (24%) and just 6% of Republicans.
The Soviet Union was a grave threat; Russia, far less of one. Sometimes U.S. and Russian interests even align. It’s difficult to say the same with respect to China. It wants to consume Taiwan out of spite for Chiang escaping to the island after Mao and his communists took over on the mainland. Mao launched revolutions and “great leaps” that killed about 65 million over the ensuing decades; Chiang built a dictatorship that has since morphed into a thriving democracy. All that’s deep in history to most of the world, but not to the Chinese Communist Party.
While Americans perceive China as the country’s top enemy, half also believe that China is the world’s leading economic power. This perception has noticeably increased since 2020, likely because of the COVID-related decline in the U.S. economy in the past year. While China has made strong progress in its overall GDP growth, it remains the world’s second-largest economy to the United States.
China’s economy is still about 66% the size of the U.S., but it’s outpacing ours and gaining fast if China’s numbers can be believed. It will soon face major demographic challenges owing to its decades-long one-child policy. Still, Americans now see China overtaking us in the short-to-medium term.
A separate question in the survey asks Americans which country they think will be the leading economic power in 20 years. The public’s views are more evenly split on this question, with 46% choosing China and 40% the United States. Again, this is a switch from last year when the majority (53%) predicted the U.S. would have this role, nearly matching the record high 55% selecting the U.S. in 2000.
I’ll end this with, of all people Bill Maher. He used his monologue on Friday to blast woke culture, noting that of all people, China benefits from it. China can build a dam, Maher says, while we — a “silly people” — will “debate what to rename it.”
“You’re not going to win the battle for the 21st century if you are a silly people. And Americans are a silly people,” Maher stated. “Do you know who doesn’t care that there’s a stereotype of a Chinese man in a Dr. Seuss book? China. All 1.4 billion of them could give a crouching tiger flying f**k.”
“Because they’re not a silly people. If anything, they are as serious as a prison fight,” he explained.
And while our military launches woke social media airstrikes on Tucker Carlson and marches into the office Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, China just keeps building more ships. Our southern border is all but erased. Rising energy prices due to Biden’s environmental extremism will squeeze our economy for the time being; $4/gallon gas is likely this year. China isn’t strangling itself, but we are.
Americans have every reason to be concerned about China’s rise under its most authoritarian leader in decades, Xi Xinping. Nearly half are concerned and see it as the number one threat, begging the question of what the other half are paying attention to.