Mixed views in Asia on US’ and China’s influence in the region: Poll

The poll also found that roughly 90 per cent of people are very or somewhat worried about a geopolitical confrontation between the US and China.

Charissa Yong

Charissa Yong

The Straits Times


June 13, 2023

WASHINGTON – Tensions between the United States and China have most people in Asia concerned, although views vary according to how favourably they view each superpower, according to a poll released on Monday.

Singaporeans, in particular, are less worried that rising tensions will imperil their national security, and also tend to have more balanced views of China and the US, compared with their neighbours.

The survey by the New York-based Eurasia Group Foundation polled 1,500 adults in total from Singapore, South Korea and the Philippines – all countries with significant historical, economic and diplomatic ties with both superpowers, and are caught in between their rivalry.

The poll found that roughly 90 per cent of people are very or somewhat worried about a geopolitical confrontation between the US and China.

The extent of this worry, however, differs by country.

The survey report’s authors noted that people with more favourable views of the US are more likely to see tensions with China as threatening their national security.

Singaporeans, who have the most positive view of China, are also the least likely to believe that US-China competition will endanger their country.

Only 38 per cent of Singaporeans say their country’s national security will be put at risk by the intensifying US-China rivalry, compared with 67 per cent of South Koreans and 81 per cent of Filipinos.

Singaporeans are also the most likely to believe they will benefit economically from both countries competing, with about 28 per cent holding that view, compared with 14 per cent of Filipinos and just 6 per cent of South Koreans.

Singaporeans tended to have fairly balanced views of the US and of China, compared with respondents in South Korea and the Philippines.

While Singaporeans were mostly evenly split between viewing the US and China as favourable or unfavourable, four in five South Koreans and Filipinos viewed America positively.

Similar proportions viewed China negatively.

This meant that overall, the US has a much better reputation than China in the region. About 70 per cent of respondents view the US favourably, compared with 34 per cent who view China positively.

Most respondents across the three countries view US influence positively as well.

About 76 per cent think America’s influence has had a positive impact on their country in recent years, compared with 41 per cent who say the same of China’s influence.

But Singapore is once again split in that regard – 63 per cent think China’s influence has been positive, while 64 per cent think the same of the US.

Singaporeans are also more split on whether the US system of government sets a good example for their country, in contrast to their neighbours, who overwhelmingly see US governance as a positive example.

About one-third of Singaporeans and Filipinos think the Chinese system of government is a positive example to be followed, while barely any South Koreans hold that view.

The report’s authors noted that US-China rivalry has deepened in recent years, and that lawmakers in Washington have warned about the threat posed by China and called for greater military capabilities of their own.

But understanding the views of the public in Asia, which has different orientations towards each superpower, “might help illuminate a new path which bypasses the zero-sum mindset”, they added.

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