Survey: US beats China on economy and military, but not tech

A global poll of 24 countries ahead of the APEC summit in San Francisco also finds the US is viewed more favorably.
By Alex Willemyns for RFA
Survey: US beats China on economy and military, but not tech Stacked containers [left] are shown as ships unload their cargo at the Port of Los Angeles in California, in 2021. At right, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier transits the Strait of Gibraltar, Oct. 28, 2023.
Mike Blake/Reuters [left] and Merissa Daley/U.S. Department of Defense/AFP

The United States is perceived by much of the world as besting China when it comes to military and economic power, but falls short of its rival when it comes to technology prowess, a new survey has found.

Released by the Pew Research Center ahead of this month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco, which is expected to include talks between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the survey across 24 countries also found the United States is largely viewed in a more favorable light.

The survey focuses on the difference in perceptions of the two powers, placing countries on a continuum from left to right: the left-hand side is more positive for the United States, the middle shows no difference in views, and the right-hand side is more positive for China.

The United States wins out as the world’s leading economic power in 16 of the 24 countries surveyed, with two countries – France and the United Kingdom – evenly split between China and the United States and six countries, mostly in Western Europe, selecting China.

Those countries include Italy (55% for China to 31% for the United States), Greece (48% to 37%), Australia (50% to 39%), Spain (48% to 38%), Germany (43% to 34%), and the Netherlands (40% to 36%). 

But the differences are far greater on the left-hand side of the chart, where the United States bests China as the better perceived economy. Those countries include a small grouping of Japan (64% to 22%), Israel (61% to 20%), Poland (55% to 14%) and India (53% to 14%).

The outlier, though, is South Korea, where 83% see the United States as the world’s leading economic power, and only 8% say China.

Military vs. technology

Military might and technology are sure to feature on the agenda when Biden and Xi meet this month in San Francisco, with the battle over microchip sector and near-accidents between U.S. and Chinese aircraft two of most prominent areas of difference between the countries.

On these issues, the United States and China are viewed very differently around the world, with U.S. military power still viewed as superior but China taking the cake when it comes to technology.

When it comes to military power, no country identifies China as the stronger power. However, Germany comes closest, with 59% for the United States to 58% for China. But there is a clear trend, with almost all countries favoring the United States by between 10 and 30 percentage points.

A Rokid employee demonstrates an augmented reality helmet at his office in Hangzhou, in China's eastern Zhejiang province, Sept. 22, 2023. (Philip Fong/AFP)

China, though, is the clear winner on the question of technological prowess, with 14 of the 24 countries falling on the right of the chart. 

Notably, though, none of those countries are in Asia, with the United States winning out on technology in South Korea (78% to 40%), Indonesia (73% to 54%), Japan (66% to 51%) and India (61 to 48%.) 

Still, China is the clear winner in almost all of Europe, Australia, Africa and the Americas – and even the United States, where 66% of respondents said they view Chinese technology as above average, compared to only 56% who said the same about their own country.

Global favorability

When it comes to which country contributes more to global “peace and stability,” the United States is the clear winner, with only Hungary – 38% for China and 34% for the United States – falling on the right. 

Each of the 23 other countries show a net positive result for the United States, with Japan and South Korea the furthest to the left – with 79% and 74% for the United States, respectively, and just 14 and 13% for China. Indonesia is the closest to the center, with 58% for the United States and 54% for China, a difference of 4 percentage points.

There is a similar result when it comes to overall favorability.

China wins against the United States only in two countries, and only by the barest of margins: Nigeria (80% to 74%) and Kenya (72% to 71%). Next closest to the middle, but on the American side, are Hungary (44% for the United States to 42%) and Mexico (63% to 57%), with Indonesia again only just behind at 56% to 49%.

Poland, meanwhile, is the most decisive in its support for the United States over China (93% to 21%), with Japan (73% to 11%) and South Korea (79% to 11%) again not far behind. About half of countries fall into a middle group that is slightly less fervently pro-U.S., including Australia (52% to 12%), India (65% to 26%) and Brazil (63% to 39%).

In the remaining countries, “views of both powers are generally positive, leading to a smaller difference in views,” with a small group around the center-line marginally in favor of the United States, including Argentina (51% to 41%) and South Africa (59% to 49%).

Edited by Malcolm Foster.


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