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Majority of Chinese Worry Territorial Disputes Could Bring Military Conflict

This combination of Sept. 3, 2016 photos provided by the Philippine Government shows what it says are surveillance pictures of Chinese coast guard ships and barges at the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.

A new survey shows a majority of people in China are concerned that territorial disputes with neighboring countries could lead to a military conflict.

The Pew Research findings released Wednesday came from a selection of questions asked to more than 3,000 Chinese people earlier this year.

China has been locked in a long-running dispute with countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia over territorial claims in the South China Sea. The Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled against China's claim to nearly all of the area in July.

The Pew survey showed 59 percent of people had some concern about the disputes resulting in conflict.

When asked their opinion on specific countries, 61 percent had an unfavorable view of India and 81 percent an unfavorable view of Japan. South Korea faired better, with 55 percent of Chinese holding a favorable opinion.

Half of those surveyed had positive view of the United States, about the same number who said the U.S. is trying to prevent China from becoming as powerful as it is.

Seventy-five percent of people said they think China is playing a more important role in the world today than it did 10 years ago. At the same time, roughly the same level cited a need to protect China's way of life against foreign influence.

China has the world's second leading economy, and as one of the five permanent members of the United States Security Council has plays a major role in diplomatic efforts such as the international agreement reached last year to limit Iran's nuclear program. At times China has used its veto power at the Security Council to object to what it describes as undo foreign influence in other country's affairs.

The Pew survey showed 56 percent of people think China should deal with its own problems and let other governments do the same, while 22 percent said China should be helping other countries deal with issues.

On terrorism, those surveyed were about evenly split on whether overwhelming military force was the best way to defeat militants or if that approach only fostered more hatred and more of a terrorist threat.

People in China were optimistic that corruption would decrease along with air and water pollution, and that food safety would improve.

Some 82 percent of people also said they think children today will be better off financially than their parents when they grow up.