A recently released Gallup World Affairs poll surveyed Americans, asking them to name the United States' greatest foreign enemy. More Americans viewed China, not Iran or Russia, as America's greatest threat.
A majority of those polled (52%) apparently view China's growing economic power as a "critical threat" to the "vital interests" of America into next decade.
Eight years ago, 31% of Americans viewed Iran as the USA's "greatest enemy," compared with 16% today. China's unfavorable ratings have held relatively steady in Americans' minds, despite the announcement of historic reforms late last year that would shift China's economy to a more consumer-driven model.
In 1979, when Gallup first gathered responses to these questions from a representative sample of Americans, China's GDP was not even one tenth that of of the United States. That year, nearly two out of three of Americans polled reported that they saw China favorably.
Today, China's meteoric rise has led a majority of Americans (52%) to report China as the world's leading economic power. Further, many Americans are beginning to view China's growing military strength and newfound economic power as a threat to U.S. strategic interests.
Gallup notes that in 1959, President John F. Kennedy gave a speech, noting that when written in Chinese, the word "crisis" is composed of two characters, one representing danger, the other representing opportunity. Americans clearly see the potential for danger in China, but it is worth noting that commercial trade with China continues to grow, creating opportunity as well. Since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, America's trade with China has grown dramatically.
However, many U.S. government officials have openly criticized Chinese currency manipulation policies and tolerance of counterfeiting as well as human rights abuses.