(Photos: Pete Souza/White House Photo, Office of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom)
Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao are expected to focus on climate change, economic concerns, and nuclear issues related to Iran and North Korea when they meet Nov. 16 and 17. The climate change question is of particular importance in the run-up to December's conference in Copenhagen, where 192 countries will attempt to conclude a new treaty on climate change. All eyes will be on China, the world's leading emitter of greenhouse gases, and the United States, which long held that distinction.
Across the 20 nations polled, approval of China's record on climate change is somewhat lower than for the US. On average, 34% approve of China (42% disapprove) while 39% approve of the US (41% disapprove).
WorldPublicOpinion.org conducted the poll of 20,349 respondents in 20 nations that comprise 63 percent of the world's population. This includes most of the largest nations--China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Russia--as well as Mexico, Chile, Germany, Great Britain, France, Poland, Ukraine, Kenya, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan, and South Korea. Polling was also conducted in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. Not all questions were asked to all nations. The margins of error range from +/-3 to 4 percentage points. The surveys were conducted across the different nations between April 4 and July 9, 2009.
WorldPublicOpinion.org, a collaborative project involving research centers from around the world, is managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland.
China and the United States are both seen as cooperative. Asked "if you think each is or is not generally cooperative with other countries," an average of 59% responded positively with regard to the US, and 53% for China.
On a nation-by-nation basis, the US is judged cooperative by 15 nations and not cooperative by four nations. China is seen as cooperative by eleven nations and uncooperative by seven.
Views of China are less sharp: on average 46% say China does the same, while 41% say it does not. Ten nations say China uses military threats, eight say it does not. Among its neighbors majorities see China as threatening in South Korea (75%), and India (54%) and views are divided in Indonesia.
The United States respects human rights in the view of 12 nations, especially. Majorities who disagreed were found in 6 nations, especially the Muslim nations of Pakistan (79%), Turkey (70%), Egypt (68%), and Iraq (60%), but also Mexico (61%).
Asked overall whether China or the US "is playing a mainly positive or negative role in the world" views are mixed. On average the split is dead even for the US, with 40% of respondents overall seeing a positive role and an identical number seeing a negative one. The overall positive response for China is higher, 44%, but still short of a majority, while 34% respond negatively.
Only in Kenya, Nigeria and South Korea do clear majorities say that both China and the US play a positive role in the world. A Majority in Turkey sees both superpowers playing negative roles.
Despite tense relations, Taiwanese views of China are not as negative one might expect. Large majorities believe China uses the threat of military force to gain advantages (70%) and does not respect human rights (76%). However slightly more than half (51%) say that China is playing a mostly positive role in the world. The same number agrees that China is mostly cooperative with other countries in the international arena.
Publics in China's special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau have very favorable views of Chinese policies. Overwhelmingly majorities agree that China is playing a mainly positive role in the world (81% Hong Kong, 81% Macau) and that China usually cooperates with other countries (85% Hong Kong, 89% Macau). Roughly two-thirds of both publics reject any notion that China uses its military power to intimidate other countries (68% Hong Kong, 69% Macau). A slight majority in Macau (51%) and a plurality in Hong Kong (45%) support China's actions in combating climate change.