A new poll released Tuesday shows Americans’ attitudes toward China are improving over years past, before a planned meeting later this week between presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping.
The timing of the poll’s release appears to be good news for Xi, whose visit coincides with the highest U.S. China favorability rating since 2011. According to the Pew Research Center poll, 44 percent of Americans say they view China favorably, up from 37 percent last year.
Between 2012 and 2016, the approval rating hovered between 37 and 38 percent.
According to the report accompanying the poll, “these shifts in views of China are taking place amid improving assessments of the U.S. economy.” It said the number of Americans who are concerned about the large amount of U.S. debt held by China and the number of jobs lost to China has dropped significantly since 2012.
According to the Pew report, 78 percent of Americans saw the large amount of debt as a serious problem in 2012. In 2017 that number dropped to 60 percent. Similarly, 61 percent saw the trade deficit as a serious problem in 2012, compared to 44 percent in 2017.
The trade deficits and job losses to China played a large role in Trump’s run for president, he repeatedly accused China of killing U.S. jobs while using its debt holdings to bolster its own economy.
Trump has predicted the talks with Xi will be difficult, due to the massive trade deficit with China. He’s also threatened to use the crucial U.S.-China trade ties to put pressure on China to do more to rein in North Korea.
In an interview with the Financial Times Sunday, he said if China doesn’t solve the problem, “we will.”
The poll showed Americans are less threatened today China’s military strength than they are by China’s economic powers. Fifty-two percent of Americans said they were more concerned about China’s economy, compared to 36 percent who said they were more concerned about the country’s military strength.
It also showed a clear division between older Americans, who were more likely to view China unfavorably, and younger Americans. According to the Pew poll, 57 percent of 18-29 year-olds view China favorably, while 37 percent hold a negative view of the country.
Among those above 50 years old, 36 percent view China favorably, while 55 percent view the country negatively.
The poll was conducted between February 16 and March 15. Pew Research estimates its margin of error at three percentage points.