The US-China rivalry is today's defining geostrategic competition. Washington is currently the biggest kid on the block, and Beijing is the strapping new boy who just moved into the neighborhood. A rivalry was almost inevitable. And there's growing evidence that the other kids on the street expect that one day there will be a new king of the hill.
Publics around the world see the global balance of power shifting, according to the latest Pew Research Center survey. Most recognize China's rising economic power. Many think Beijing will eventually supplant Washington as the world's dominant superpower.
However, public appreciation of China's centrality on the world stage has not translated into great affection. China's favorability is dropping in many nations. Globally, people are more likely to consider the US a partner to their country than see China in this way. America is also seen as somewhat more willing than China to consider other countries' interests when making US foreign policy. And US respect for individual liberty is a defining, positive element of America's image, while Beijing's abuse of human rights hurts China's brand.
The survey was conducted in March.
As its influence grows, China is learning that being a superpower also alienates people. Beijing's growing military strength is viewed with trepidation in the Asian region.
Since the 2008 financial crisis, perceptions about the economic balance of power in the world have been shifting. The median percentage naming the US as the world's leading economic power has declined from 47 to 41 percent, comparing results in the 20 nations surveyed by the Pew Research Center in 2008 and 2013. At the same time, the median percentage placing China in the top spot has risen from 20 to 34 percent, although the US economy is still larger than that of China and per capita income is higher.
This trend has been especially apparent among some of America's closest allies in Western Europe: 53 percent in Britain say China is already the leading economy, while 33 percent name the US; 59 percent of Germans also say China occupies the top position, while 19 percent think the US is the global economic leader and14 percent say it's the EU.
In contrast, the US is still generally seen as the world's leading economy in Latin America, Africa and in much of China's Asian backyard: 67 percent in Japan and the Philippines, and 61 percent in South Korea, name the US as the economic powerhouse, while small minorities name China.
However, even in many countries where America is still seen as the top dog, most believe China will someday supplant Uncle Sam. In 23 of 39 nations, majorities or pluralities say China either already has replaced or eventually will replace the US as the world's superpower. This view is more common now than it was in 2008, when Pew Research first asked this question.
In the eyes of many, America's time on top is fading. Today, majorities or pluralities in only six countries state that China will never replace the US. But in Europe the prevailing view is that China will ultimately eclipse the US. The same expectation is held by the majority or plurality in five of seven Latin American nations polled.
Two-thirds of the Chinese state that their country either already has or someday will replace the US. Meanwhile, Americans are losing faith in their own supremacy: 47 percent say China has or will replace the US, and the same number say this will never happen. American opinion has shifted significantly since 2008, when 36 percent said China would become the top global power and 54 percent said it would never replace the US.