Chronic Negativity About China Now Infects Americans

Americans will continue to believe China is ‘draconian’ at home and dangerous all over the world for as long as they receive propaganda masquerading as news.

The respected Pew Research Center released polling data a few days ago that demonstrates the increasing negativity Americans feel toward China.

No one should be surprised by the results. America’s political and media elite, on a daily basis, loudly bang the drum that “China is a nation that cannot be trusted”. If you think about it, if you heard the same message day after day after day, you would believe it. An overwhelming majority of Americans, most especially those on the right, are certainly accepting what they hear about China.

According to the Pew report, “Around eight-in-ten (82 percent) [Americans] have unfavorable opinions of China, including 40 percent who have very unfavorable views of the country. This is a 6-point increase in negative views from 2021 and a new high since the Center began asking this question on its American Trends Panel in 2020.”

Perhaps more important is this: “China’s power and influence is also seen as a growing threat to the U.S. Today, two-thirds describe China as a major threat – up 5 percentage points since 2020 and 23 points since the question was first asked in 2013.”

Let us look at how U.S. political and media elites have built the “bad China” narrative over just the past couple of years. As we do, it will become increasingly clear why propaganda about China is working in the United States.

A marble lion is seen with a face mask in front of the New York Public Library on the Fifth Avenue in New York, the United States, Jul. 8, 2020. (Photo/Xinhua)

Beginning in 2020, former President Donald Trump used vile rhetoric about the burgeoning global pandemic. As he regularly talked about “the Wuhan virus”, Trump demonstrated zero knowledge of how pandemics spread. In reality, he had no interest in trying to make Americans understand the virus; rather, he sought only to reinforce his warped idea that China was a horrible place.

His political supporters continue to agree. According to the Pew data, 64 percent of respondents who identify as conservative Republicans and 54 percent who report being Republican or leaning Republican say they have a “very unfavorable” opinion of China. America’s 45th president must be so proud.

Next, throughout the first half of 2021, Congress discussed the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), which one national political figure after another claimed was necessary because “China posed a serious threat to America’s national security”. One major news agency after another parroted the government line that “China was determined to undermine the global world order and America’s place at its hierarchy”. Few questions were asked about whether the USICA actually did much to make the U.S. a better, safer and more sophisticated country.

Returning to the Pew survey, we again see evidence of hostility with people on the right. The summary states: “Conservative Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are particularly likely to say China’s power and influence is a major threat for the U.S. While about six-in-ten moderate or liberal Republicans and Democrats of all ideologies see the issue as a major threat, more than eight-in-ten conservative Republicans hold this opinion. The share of Republicans who say China’s power is a major threat has also increased by 8 points since 2020, while opinions among Democrats remain relatively unchanged.”

As 2021 wound down and 2022 began, China’s “dynamic zero-COVID policy,” which consistently tamped down COVID illnesses and deaths throughout the country, was described as “draconian” or similar terms by U.S. media. That policy was – and still is – defined by locking down locations where diagnosed cases spike, consistently testing residents of those areas and deep cleaning public spaces to limit the potential for further spread of the virus.

A U.S. national flag and flowers are seen at a cemetery in New York, the United States, Jul. 29, 2020. (Photo/Xinhua)

It seems irrational to call such a plan “draconian,” especially recognizing here have been slightly more than 750,000 confirmed COVID cases and roughly 15,000 deaths in China. These data come from the World Health Organization, a body that is respected across the world. By comparison, more than 83 million cases and close to 1 million deaths have occurred in the United States.

If keeping people safe is “draconian,” then what word depicts keeping people unsafe?

One more element of the Pew survey defers discussion. Because the survey took place at the end of March, the Russia-Ukraine military confrontation was at the forefront of Americans’ thinking. When one realizes the effort being made in the U.S. to assert China is Russia’s ally, it follows that 62 percent of survey respondents stated the overall China-Russia relationship was a “very serious” problem for the United States.

Let us remember that it is the U.S. and its allies that have escalated the military conflict by delivering billions of dollars in weapons and war materiel to Ukraine. All the while, the Chinese government has maintained all parties should focus on creating realistic possibilities for peace. Nevertheless, political and media elites instead want to strengthen the anti-China narrative. So, they say – using Orwellian logic – the U.S. is aiding the peace effort by focusing on war while the Chinese are aiding the war effort by focusing on peace.

Americans will continue to believe China is “draconian” at home and dangerous all over the world for as long as they receive propaganda masquerading as news. We should not be surprised that the Pew Research Center found the results it did, and we should accept that such data will show no significant improvement in the years to come.


The article reflects the author’s opinions, and not necessarily the views of China Focus.