PH, neighbors favor U.S. over China – study

KD Suarez
Territorial disputes are a major reason Filipinos and other Asians regard China less favorably than the United States, according to the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project survey

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines overwhelmingly favors United States over China, with a majority of Filipinos seeing their long-time western ally in a positive light than their giant neighbor to the northwest, a study released Thursday, July 18, reported.

The survey showed 85% of Filipinos surveyed have a favorable view of the US. It is the highest rating among 38 nations included in Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project survey for spring 2013

The sentiment is shared, in varying degrees, by Asian neighbors, a number of which have territorial disputes with China. In all regions surveyed, except the Middle East, the United States is regarded more favorably than China.

Filipinos also view the US as a partner more than an enemy, with 81% of respondents answering in the affirmative. Three percent said the US is an enemy, while 13% said the US is neither.

Filipinos also “overwhelmingly think the US considers their interests,” the survey said.

The Pew study also showed the following:

  • US President Barack Obama and his policies remain popular in the Philippines (84% and 76% approval, respectively)
  • 77% of Filipinos said Obama’s re-election led to a more favorable opinion of the US. 13% said it made their view of the US less favorable, and 4% said it did not change their view of the US.
  • 3 in 4 Filipinos express a favorable view of Americans – a figure highly correlated with the overall view on the US.
  • A majority of Filipinos disapprove drone strikes (52% disapprove vs 44% approve).

View of China affected by disputes

On the other hand, only 48% of Filipinos surveyed said they have a favorable view of China, a 37-percentage-point difference compared to the favorability rating of the US.

The Philippines is one of only 4 countries included in the survey to have a significant minority view of China as an “enemy.” Thirty-nine percent of those surveyed said China is an enemy; 35% said it is neither; and 22% said it is a partner.

Filipinos surveyed also said the territorial disputes with China is a “very big/big problem,” with 90% of respondents saying so. It is the highest figure among the countries included in the survey with ongoing disputes with the country.

“This is particularly the case in the Philippines, where 58% of Filipinos say such friction with China is a very big problem,” Pew said. China’s growing military might is also an issue for a strong majority of Filipinos (68%).

Despite this, young Filipinos have a favorable view toward China, the survey suggested. Among 18-29-year-old Filipinos, 54% have a favorable view of China; among 30-49-year-olds, 50%. For people aged 50 and above, the favorability rating is at 38%.

A majority of Filipinos also believe China considers the Philippines’ interests: 58% saying the country’s giant neighbor considers Filipinos’ interests “a great deal/fair amount,” with 39% saying the opposite.

The Pew also showed the following results:

  • 90% of Filipinos think the US has a great deal/fair amount of influence in the Philippines, compared to 69% saying China has the same influence on the country.
  • The US is seen to have a better influence on the Philippines in general (78% for US, 35% for China), and particularly on the economy (87% for US, 53% for China).
  • Only 13% of Filipinos said it is important to have strong ties with both countries; 77% believe ties with the US are more important, while only 6% said ties with China are more important.
  • On personal freedoms, the US gets high marks from Filipinos (91%, the highest among all countries surveyed), while the view on China is divided (51% said China respects its people’s freedoms, 44% saying it doesn’t).

US more positive image

Overall, the United States’ image remains more positive globally compared to China’s. A median of 63% have a positive view of the US, while China’s rating is at 50%.

The US is also likely seen as a “partner” for many countries compared to China, and is seen as “willing than China to consider other countries’ interests,” Pew said in its report.

“Still, both of these world powers are widely viewed as acting unilaterally in international affairs,” the research group said.

The US’s strong suits are in respecting individual liberty and President Barack Obama’s continued popularity overseas. However, the US’ use of drone strikes cast the country in an unfavorable light.

The country’s image is also suffering in Muslim-majority countries, particularly in the Middle East.

China’s strongest supporters come from some of its neighbors, and from Africa and Latin America, in particular Malaysia (81%), Pakistan (81%), Kenya (78%), Senegal (77%), and Nigeria (76%).

China the superpower?

Despite more people, including Filipinos, still identifying the US as the world’s top economy, the survey said there is an increasing number of people who are now seeing China’s emerging economic power.

“Regardless of which country is seen as the economic powerhouse today, many publics believe China will eventually replace the US as the world’s leading superpower, if it has not already done so,” the study said.

The positive view of China in Latin America and Africa has been bolstered in part by the economic giant’s increased investment in the area.

China’s soft power efforts are also one of its strong suits, with many Latin Americans and Africans embracing Chinese technology, culture, and ideas compared to people in other parts of the world.

Only 6 countries – including the Philippines – had a majority of respondents saying the US will never be replaced by China at the top rung of the world’s economy.

In the Philippines, only 22% of those surveyed said China is or will become the world’s leading superpower; 74% said the US will still be the lone superpower, the highest among the 6 countries.

37,653 respondents in 39 countries

The Pew study was done in 39 countries, divided into 6 regions. The Philippines was included in the Asia/Pacific region.

In the Philippines, the survey was conducted through face-to-face interviews of adults 18 years old and above. The sample was determined through a multi-stage cluster sample based on geographic region and urban areas, with a size of 804 respondents.

It was conducted from March 10 to April 3, 2013, and interviews were conducted using Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilonggo, Ilocano, and Bicolano.

The margin of error was placed at +/-4.5 percentage points, Pew said.

The entire study had a total of 37,653 respondents from 39 countries, and was conducted from March 2 to May 1, 2013 under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Pew said the results are based on national samples. –

Infographic from Pew Research Center

Uncle Sam hat image from Shutterstock

Mao cap image from Shutterstock

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