SOURCE: Bertelsmann Stiftung

December 11, 2007 21:00 ET

More and More People See China as a Future Superpower

Global Opinion Survey Traces China's Climb to No. 2 in the World; A Major Increase Over the Past Two Years -- 80 Percent of Chinese See the Country in the Lead

BERLIN--(Marketwire - December 11, 2007) - More and more people in China and other leading countries expect China to have the same influence as the US in the future, according to an international opinion poll conducted by the Bertelsmann Stiftung this September with 9,000 respondents in every region of the world. On average, 50% of those surveyed would already call China a world power alongside the US. And while the US remained the undisputed leader with 81%, China gained 5 percentage points compared to a similar poll conducted two years ago. The Chinese placed even more trust in their country's future prospects. 65% of respondents already perceived their country as a global player. Within China, this figure has risen 21 percentage points in the past two years.

In terms of the future, 57% of people around the globe expected China to be a superpower in 2020, while a mere 61% thought the US would still hold this position. Among Chinese respondents, 80% believed their country would play a global role, but only 59% thought the US would be a world power at that date. In 2020, the Chinese expect the leading nations of the world to also include Russia (37%), the UK (31%), the European Union (29%) and Japan (23%).

Nations and organizations that should be more involved in spreading peace and stability worldwide, according to the Chinese, were their own country as well as the US (60%), the UN (49%), Russia (42%) and the EU (35%). All told, 98% of the Chinese respondents would like for China to work more closely with the European Union (EU). No other country in this survey gave such a high approval rating for EU cooperation.

When asked about the process of establishing peace and stability worldwide, the Chinese proved to be multilateralists: 47% stood behind the UN; 44% were in favour of power-sharing between various regional players; only 6% supported the leadership of a single superpower.

For the Chinese, the biggest challenge facing the world was environmental devastation and climate change (62%), followed by war (51%), global terrorism (49%) and resource scarcity (45%). This showed that awareness of environmental problems shot up 17 percentage points in China in the past two years. While this is a global trend, it is most pronounced in China, the US and Japan. In India and Russia, however, only a minority of respondents cite climate change as a major challenge.

The most important characteristic of a global player, reported Chinese respondents, was economic power and growth (74%), followed by political stability (70%) and military strength (59%). The emphasis on military strength was especially pronounced in China. On average, military power is cited much less frequently worldwide in this context and thus came in last among all categories.

Summarizing the study, Josef Janning, Head of International Relations at the Bertelsmann Stiftung, noted, "People's future expectations hold enormous sway over policymaking. All over the world, people see the US losing its dominant position in future. They perceive the emergence of a new, bipolar world order in which the US and China dominate, but where there is also room for regional power centres in Russia, the EU, India and Japan. However, the vast majority of people would like a world with an even balance of global power -- one in which the UN would preferably assume a key leadership role."

As yet, there is no one single perceived agenda for tackling major problems. People continue to set very different priorities. One difficulty, noted Janning, is that populations in emerging markets plan to rely on their own strength in global competition. "If this attitude takes hold in global politics, we may see a resurgence of the sort of nationalistic brinkmanship between current and future global powers that we experienced so disastrously in 20th century Europe. However, the commonly perceived threat of climate change and environmental devastation may yet encourage greater political cooperation at the international level in the years to come."

Gallup International/TNS-EMNID, an opinion research firm, recently polled 9,000 people in the US, Russia, Brazil, China, India, Japan, Germany, France and the UK for the Bertelsmann Stiftung study. As a benchmark, the findings were compared with a similar Bertelsmann Stiftung survey from 2005. The results were recently presented at the second meeting of the Bertelsmann Stiftung's Global Policy Council in Berlin. The council brings together high-calibre experts from various fields and regions to analyze the challenges and opportunities inherent in the dynamics of globalization, the rise of new powers and the emergence of new security risks. The Chinese delegation included: Ambassador Ma Zhengang, the President of the China Institute of International Studies and former Vice-Minister of the Foreign Affairs Office of the State Council, Prof. Jia Qinggua from Beijing University, Ambassador Mei Zhaorong from Fudan University in Shanghai, and Prof. Yan Xuetong from Tsinghua University.

About the Bertelsmann Stiftung:

The Bertelsmann Stiftung is a non-profit German foundation. As a think tank and political consulting institution, it is committed to developing innovative, humane solutions for the challenges faced by a globalized world. One of its main areas of expertise is international relations. Established in 1977 by Reinhard Mohn, a German businessman, it is still a majority shareholder of Bertelsmann AG, an international media company. In its projects, the Bertelsmann Stiftung is non-partisan and independent from the company.

To download details about the international survey, go to: http://www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de/bst/de/media/xcms_bst_dms_23193_23194_2.pdf

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