International trade has lifted millions of people in Asia out of poverty in recent decades and has done a great deal to bring China’s economy closer into line with the realities of 21st‐century capitalism. Accordingly, it isn’t terribly surprising that, according to a sixcountry survey of soft power in Asia by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, trade is wildly popular in China.
What is surprising, however, is how popular trade is throughout Asia. The survey covered Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia and the United States, as well as China, and in all countries except the US, the figures on trade were striking.
The survey reports that in China, Japan and South Korea, for example, “no potential bilateral free‐trade agreement … receives less than 53 per cent support”. Even more striking, between 70 per cent and 86 per cent of those surveyed in Japan, South Korea and China favour a Northeast Asian Free Trade Area including the three countries.
These findings reflect a wide recognition in Asia of the benefits of trade. The findings in the US, however, are much less encouraging: 54 per cent of Americans oppose a bilateral free‐trade agreement with China, with only 41per cent in favour.
Not unrelated are Americans’ views of China as a strategic threat: 70 per cent say they are “very worried” or “somewhat worried” about China’s rise and its implications for American national security.
Even with unemployment having hovered between 4 per cent and 6 per cent for more than a decade, American politicians have cultivated a fear of China that has yielded military wariness and economic resentment.