In 2020, Americans were equally as likely to identify either China or Russia as the United States’ biggest enemy.
“The current shift coincided with a period when the global economy and human activity were severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in China,” according to the poll.
“The rise in perceptions of China as the United States’ greatest enemy is accompanied by a sharp decline since 2020 in those mentioning Iran (down 15 percentage points to 4 percent), as well as four- to five-point declines in mentions of Iraq and North Korea and smaller declines in a handful of other countries,” according to the poll.
Perceptions of Russia as the United States’ biggest enemy now stand at 26 percent, which only rose three percentage points from last year. In 2019, Russia topped the list after garnering 32 percent.
One of the largest shifts witnessed was with North Korea. Today, only 9 percent of Americans view the isolated East Asian country as their nation’s greatest enemy, a huge drop compared to 2018 when 51 percent of respondents said North Korea was the biggest enemy.
Over the past decade, nations leading similar polls have fluctuated widely. China last ranked number one in 2014, Russia in 2020, 2019, and 2014, and North Korea 2018 and 2016.
Before China, Russia, and North Korea crowding the rankings, it was Iran (2006-2008, 2011, and 2012) and Iraq (2001 and 2005) that took the top spots.
“While Americans perceive China as the country’s top enemy, half also believe that China is the world’s leading economic power,” the poll wrote.
“This perception has noticeably increased since 2020, likely because of the COVID-related decline in the U.S. economy in the past year. While China has made strong progress in its overall GDP growth, it remains the world’s second-largest economy to the United States.”
One particular question in the survey asked Americans which country they think will be the world’s leading economic power in two decades. The poll found that the general public’s views are evenly split, with 46 percent choosing China and 40 percent the United States. Just last year, 53 percent predicted that the United States would continue to have that role.
The survey also discovered a new high of 63 percent of Americans admitting that China’s rising economic power is a critical threat to the vital interests of the United States over the next decade. That percentage is up considerably from 46 percent registered in 2019.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.