The American and Chinese economies


China's low standard of living allows companies there to pay their workers less than what American workers earn. That makes products cheaper, which lures overseas manufacturers to outsource jobs to China. They then ship the finished goods to the United States, China’s largest trading partner.

In the end, U.S. efforts to roll back the one part of globalization that it can somewhat control—global supply chains and trade—will be at best a partial and imperfect solution that will only aggravate the other challenges. Choosing economic decoupling as the answer to today’s problems, said Zoellick, is simply inviting future headaches.

Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are more likely to name the U.S. as the leading military power than Democrats and Democratic leaners (90% vs. 80%). While Democrats are about as likely as Republicans to name China, they are somewhat more likely to name Russia as the world’s leading military power (9% vs. 4%).3 Men, those with higher incomes and those with higher levels of education are more likely to say the U.S. is the leading military power than women, the less affluent or less educated people, respectively, though differences between people of different educational backgrounds are muted.

“Some of the lessons of the 1980s about just-in-time manufacturing will be adjusted—that is natural and appropriate,” Zoellick, the former U.S. trade representative, said. “We just have to decide where we want to pay the cost—because there will be costs. If we develop it all at home, it will have costs, and it will have costs for U.S. exporters” who stand to lose overseas access in a world of rising trade barriers, he said.

The drop in confidence from 2019 to 2020 is especially notable. While views of Xi have been fairly stable for the past few years, remaining within a 10 percentage point range, in just the last year the percentage saying they lack confidence in him has increased by 21 points. This shift occurred among both Republicans and Democrats, as well as among older and younger Americans.

Americans are highly critical of the way China has handled the coronavirus outbreak. Around two-thirds (64%) say China has done a bad job, including 43% who say it has done a very bad job. (When a slightly different question was administered online in April and May, 63% of Americans said China was doing only a fair or a poor job dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, including 37% who said it was doing a poor job.)

These are among the findings of a new survey by Pew Research Center, conducted March 3 to 29, 2020, among 1,000 adults in the U.S. The survey also finds that younger people, who have historically been more positive than older Americans toward China, now increasingly hold negative views of the country and are more prone to see it as a threat to the U.S. than in previous years. Older Americans, however, still take a more negative stance than their younger compatriots on most aspects of the U.S.-China relationship.

Since the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic in March, the U.S. unemployment rate has skyrocketed, and the International Monetary Fund predicts the U.S. gross domestic product will shrink in 2020, while the Chinese economy will achieve positive growth. The American public’s economic confidence has also declined. While 52% of Americans still see their country as the world’s leading economic power, this is down from 59% in March, an unprecedented high in Pew Research Center’s surveys on this question.

Other U.S. allies around the world are eyeing ways to follow suit. Australia, bristling at Chinese trade threats, is also looking to diversify its own export markets and supply chains away from China. Europeans are having second thoughts about ever-closer trade and investment ties with Beijing. Some European policymakers in recent years have been spooked by an aggressive wave of Chinese takeovers of critical infrastructure from ports to power grids, fearing it could give Beijing undue leverage over their countries. Chinese diplomats have taken on an aggressive stance against some Western countries, including the Netherlands, with vague threats of sanctions or other forms of coercion as relations sour amid the pandemic.

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