The question of if and when China will take America’s place as world’s largest and most powerful economy has inspired a lot of debate. US intelligence analysts predict it will happen by 2030; according to OECD estimates, it could be as early as 2016. Going by Chinese estimates, the country’s economy might not surpass the US at any point this century.
As for the general public’s opinion, China has already overtaken the US as the world’s largest and most powerful economy, or will soon. Since the financial crisis, an increasing number of people around the world believe China has surpassed the US, according to a yearly survey (pdf) by the Pew Research Center.
This year’s poll of about 38,000 people found that in 23 of 39 countries surveyed, a plurality of respondents said they believed China would or had already replaced the US as the world’s no. 1 superpower. Looking at 20 countries polled in 2008 and then again this year, Pew found that the percentage of those who placed China in the top spot went up in all but one country (Mexico). The median percentage of people (the midpoint in the range of percentages in each of the 20 countries) who view China as top dog in these 20 countries rose to 34% this year, from 20% in 2008. Meanwhile, the median percentage that named the US fell to 41% from 47%.
In other words, when comparing 2013’s data with that of 2008, there were more countries in 2013 that had a higher percentage of people who put China in the top spot.
The poll also shows that in terms of image, the so-called US-China rivalry may be something of a zero sum game. Some of the regions where the US is most popular are where China is the least popular, and vice versa.
In Asia, the median percentage of those who viewed China well was 58%; compared to 64% who were positive about America. The clearest cases in that region are Japan, where only 5% viewed China favorably compared to 69% who had a positive image of the US, and Pakistan where 81% liked China but only 11% viewed the US in good light.
In the Middle East, only 21% viewed the US favorably compared to 45% who saw China in a good light. Perceptions of China were the lowest in Europe and Canada, where favorability for the US was high.
Here’s a list of all the countries surveyed this year, and where they stand on which country is the foremost global economic power.