In contrast with the developed West, globalisation and economic integration remain popular in the world’s two largest developing countries—India and China.
The reasons are easy to guess. The International Monetary Fund expects India’s economy to grow by 7.6% this year and China’s by 6.6%, both more than double the expected global economic growth of 3.1%.
It’s little surprise then that Indians and Chinese are happy with their economies, the direction of their countries, and their growing integration into the world economy, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2016 Global Attitudes Survey. The survey collected responses from more than 2,400 Indian adults and more than 3,100 Chinese.
Indians and Chinese also express pride in their respective nation’s growing stature on the world stage. At the same time, people are wary of the outside world and prioritize dealing with their own problems rather than helping others. In all, 86% of Chinese and roughly two-thirds of Indians are satisfied with the economy and the direction their countries are headed today.
The Chinese have been overwhelmingly satisfied with the direction of their country for a decade, but this has not always been the case. In 2002 just 48% were content.
The Indian public’s satisfaction with how things are going has increased 36 percentage points since 2013, the year before prime minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP, took power. Current approval of the country’s direction is widely shared by men and women, all age groups and education levels, and by people living in cities and in the countryside. About seven in 10 supporters of the BJP and more than half of backers of the Indian National Congress party, INC, are pleased with the country’s direction.
China’s economic growth rate may be slowing, but views about the economy are still widely positive. Most Chinese expect continued economic progress in the coming year: 22% say the economy will improve a lot over the next 12 months, while 54% think it will improve a little. The public is also optimistic about economic prospects for the next generation: 82% suggest that when children in the country today grow up they will be financially better off than their parents.
Indian views on the economy have improved by 23 points since 2013, and 35% of Indians today say the economy is very good. Notably, 42% of BJP supporters voice the view that the economy is doing very well, while only 26% of INC adherents share this view. People also see the economy as foreshadowing prospects for their children: Roughly seven in 10 Indians assume that when today’s children grow up they will be better off financially than their parents. This faith in the future is up a bit from 2013, when it stood at 64%.
By comparison, a median of 42% in a Pew survey of 10 EU nations and 44% in the US say their economy is doing well.
Both Chinese and Indians feel good about their nations’ growing integration into the world economy.
Trade accounted for 41% of China’s economy in 2015. This is up 11 percentage points from 1990, but down 24 points from 2006. Despite this rollercoaster ride, six in 10 Chinese suggest that China’s involvement in the global economy is good because it provides the country with new markets and opportunities for growth. Just 23% think it’s a bad thing because it lowers wages and costs jobs.
Trade accounted for 49% of the Indian economy in 2014, and Indians are generally happy with globalisation. By approximately two to one, Indians think their involvement in the global economy is a good thing, 52%,while only 25% say it’s a problem.
By comparison, 56% of respondents in Europe suggest that global economic engagement is positive, but only 44% of Americans agree.
The Chinese people recognise their country’s growing prominence on the world stage: 75% say China is playing a more important role in world affairs than it did 10 years ago, and only 10% of suggest that they are a less important player in the global arena.
Indians as well acknowledge their country’s growing international stature: 68% say India plays a more important role in the world today compared with 10 years ago, and only 15% suggest that India plays a less important role. Both the Chinese and Indians are far more likely than Europeans at 23% or Americans, 21%, to assume that their nation plays a more important role on the world stage today than it did a decade ago.
Yet both Chinese and Indians remain wary of the world around them in different ways.
Despite their overwhelming confidence in their own country, 77% of Chinese suggest that their way of life needs to be protected against foreign influence. In 2002, just 64% of Chinese felt that way. And 52% of Chinese suggest that the US is trying to prevent China from becoming as powerful as America, compared with 29% who say the US accepts that China will eventually be an equal power.
Indians have their own international anxieties, many focused on China. Seven in 10 Indians suggest that China’s economic impact on their country is a problem, including 45% who say the problem is very serious; 69% hold the view that China’s growing military power is a problem for India, including 46% who describe this as a very serious issue. A similar percentage expresses the opinion that China’s territorial disputes with India are a very or somewhat serious problem. And nearly half of Indians, 48%, suggest that China’s relationship with Pakistan poses a very serious problem for India. Another 21% see this as a somewhat serious problem.
Chinese citizens’ wariness of foreign influence may help explain why a majority of Chinese, 56%, want Beijing to focus on China’s problems. Just 22% voice the view that their government should help others. Similarly, 53% of Indians say their country should deal with its own difficulties. Just 23% say India should help other countries. And by this measure of isolationism, Chinese and Indians are just as inward-looking as Americans at 57% and Europeans, 53%, who want their government to focus on domestic issues.
As the role both China and India play in the world economy grows, so too does the significance of their respective public’s view of that role. The Chinese and Indian people express satisfaction with both the direction of their countries and the health of their economies. And they are proud of their countries’ growing stature on the world stage. Nevertheless, they remain somewhat wary of the world around them and want their governments to focus largely on domestic challenges. In such views, their sentiments are not much different from those in Europe and the United States, powers with a far longer tenure in global limelight.