China’s miraculous economic growth has become a source of concern for some Americans who hold a realist view of international politics. The argument is that the increase in economic prowess will lead (is leading) to an increase in military power and a heightened strategic threat to the predominance of the United States in global affairs. How concerned is the average American with China’s emergence on the international scene? One of the best places to find the answer to this question, and to all questions related to the public’s views regarding international affairs is the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. The Council has archived on its website reports on public attitudes going all the way back to 1975. An important virtue of these surveys is that they disaggregate elite opinion from the rest of the public.
As for Americans’ views of China, in the 2006 survey slightly more than one-third of Americans viewed China as a strategic threat (click on the chart below for a larger image). Not surprisingly, almost 3/4 of Americans viewed international terrorism as a strategic threat to US interests, putting that issue at number one. Click the link above for the whole report, which polled the public on other issues, such as international trade, immigration, and global warming.