A new Pew Research Center survey released on Monday has some unsurprising findings about the widespread global opposition to U.S. eavesdropping following recent revelations around the scope of American electronic surveillance methods. Though the U.S.’s overall image remains, according to Pew, mostly positive around the world, what may be of greater concern to Washington is the perception that the tides are shifting in favor of its geopolitical rival China.
While the U.S. may have a more positive overall image than China, a median of those polled by Pew believe that the East Asian powerhouse will surpass the U.S. to become the world’s leading superpower. This view is not limited to countries with largely critical views of the U.S., either. According to Pew, some of the U.S.’s closest European allies share the outlook, with a median of 60% of polled E.U. nations believing China will or already has replaced the U.S. as a top superpower.
The perception of China’s ascendance has some of its neighbors on edge. Not unexpectedly, Asian countries with ongoing territorial disputes with China tend to view the communist state as their greatest international threat. Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam— all of whom have made headlines recently over maritime tensions with China— see their powerful neighbor as their primary threat. (The U.S. is seen by all three as their chief ally).
The fear that these disputes could lead to military conflict is especially pronounced in the Philippines where 93% of respondents are concerned that their nation’s territorial feud with China could escalate to that level. Japan, Vietnam, and South Korea follow with 85%, 84%, and 83% respectively. It should come as no surprise then that the aforementioned states have largely unfavorable views towards China, which is otherwise broadly popular among other Asian populations.
While Washington can take heart in the persistence of its popularity in East Asia, it is clear that the pendulum is swinging away in China’s direction. Should Beijing exercise some savvy in its relations with its neighbors by attempting to quell the animosities that are currently flaring, it may be able to accelerate its already apparent challenge to U.S. supremacy in the region.