Indonesians and Filipinos Favor US Over China as Superpower, Study Finds

John Bechtel
181030-SEA-pew-620.jpg U.S. President Donald Trump (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping applaud as they watch officials exchange a memorandum of understanding during a business event at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Nov. 9, 2017.

More than 75 percent of Filipinos would prefer that the United States remain the world’s leading superpower over its Asian rival China, while Indonesians favor that scenario by a ratio of almost two-to-one, researchers at an American think-tank found in a recent survey.

The survey by Pew asked, “Thinking about the future, if you had to choose, which of the following scenarios would be better for the world?” Those questioned were allowed to respond: the U.S., China, both, neither or don’t know/refuse to answer.

“In Indonesia and the Philippines, the prevailing view is that the level of U.S. global engagement is about the same as a few years ago,” Pew reported in its study.

In the Philippines, 77 percent of respondents selected the United States while only 12 percent picked China. The United States was the only nation whose respondents, 88 percent, gave the superpower a higher approval rating while China was not among the 26 nations participating in the survey.

Meanwhile in Indonesia, the figures were 43 percent for the United States compared with 22 percent for China.

“In Indonesia, those who say the U.S. considers their country’s interests are more likely to say that they prefer the U.S., but these differences do not appear in the Philippines, where 74 percent say the U.S. considers their country’s interests,” Pew senior researcher Jacob Poushter told BenarNews in an email.

While those surveyed preferred the United States as the world leader, more respondents in both countries saw China increasing its world power from 10 years ago than they saw from the U.S. during the same period.

In the Philippines, 37 percent of the respondents saw China’s role on the world stage becoming stronger compared with 35 percent for the United States, while Indonesians gave the nod to China, 44 percent to 39 percent. Pew researchers said many respondents tended to evaluate the U.S. role on the world stage through comparison with other nations.

“In both countries, there is little relationship between views about China’s growing power and preferring the U.S. or China as the world leader,” Poushter said.

By comparison, U.S. respondents had a much stronger reaction to China, with 72 percent seeing the Asian power as becoming stronger on the world stage.

The Indonesian results were based on face-to-face interviews with 1,098 people between July 6 and Aug. 12. Pew said the results had a margin of error rate of 4.5 percentage points.

The Philippine results were based on face-to-face interviews with 1,181 people between May 28 and July 7, with a margin of error rate of 4.2 percentage points.

The Pew Research Center, which is not associated with the U.S. government, describes itself as “a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It does not take policy positions.”

It lists its duties as conducting public opinion polling, demographic research, content analysis and other data-driven social science research.

Previous results

Both Indonesia and the Philippines continue to see the United States as the world’s leading economic superpower, although its lead over China has slipped since 2015, when Indonesians surveyed favored the United States over China by 47 percent to 19 percent and Filipinos favored the United States by 66 percent to 14 percent.

Two years later, those figures in Indonesia were 39 percent favoring the United States and 22 percent favoring China, while in the Philippines, 49 percent favored the United States to 25 percent for China.

Pew researchers this year found that Indonesians favored the United States 30 percent to 27 percent, while Filipinos responded at 40 percent for United States to 31 percent for China.


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