Published June 13, 2012
More people around the world perceive China -- not the U.S. -- as the world’s top economic power, according to a new global survey.
While China still lags the U.S. by far in reality, the changing view highlights China’s rapid growth over the last few years and America’s black eye as it struggles to rebound from financial turmoil.
Among people from 14 countries who were surveyed by the Pew Research Center each year from 2008, prior to the recession, to 2012, just 36% say the U.S. is the leading economic power, from 45% in 2008. About 42% of those same people believe China is in the top spot, up from 22%.
The dramatic shift seems to be led by Europe, which is currently in the crux of its own financial disaster, as well as in Brazil, Japan, Turkey and Lebanon.
“Over the last few years, perceptions about the global economic balance of power have been shifting,” Pew said in the report, which was compiled using surveys of 26,210 people in 21 counties in March and April through either in person or telephone interviews.
According to the report, nine countries view China as the leading economic power, including all but one of the European Union nations surveyed, while just seven see the U.S. up top.
The percentage of people naming the U.S. as No. 1 declined by 13 points in France, 11 points in Spain and nine points in Germany over the last year alone, leaving Mexico and Turkey as the only countries in which more than half consider the U.S. as the leader.
Even Americans are torn on the issue, with 40% thinking their own country is the economic ruler while 41% name China, according to Pew. The Chinese, on the other hand, are not as convinced, with roughly half placing the U.S. up top compared with just 29% who say China.
China continues to grow as part of the world economy. The average annual growth of its gross domestic product has been 10.5% since 2001, while the growth rate of America's GDP has been a meager 1.7%.
In 2009, China passed Germany as the biggest exporter and has overtaken Japan as the world’s second-biggest economic power.
Yet, China still has loads of challenges moving forward, including combating relatively low per-person income. Americans are among the richest in the world and the U.S. houses key industrial hubs, including aerospace, auto and finance.
While China's $5.93 trillion GDP is rising rapidly, it's still far behind the United States' $14.58 trillion economy, according to the World Bank.
As the perception of China’s might is improving, several countries’ opinions on the Asian powerhouse have plummeted recently. Americans have become less disposed to rate China positively, dropping to 40% from 51% last year, and China’s image has slipped in Britain and Japan, whose opinion of its neighbor plummeted to 15% from 34%.
The Chinese, meanwhile, are roughly split in their views about the U.S., with 48% viewing the superpower as unfavorable.