As President Obama and his Chinese counterpart prepare for a weekend summit in California to discuss thorny bilateral issues, a new poll shows that ordinary Americans and Chinese increasingly eye one another with suspicion.
Obama and the newly minted Chinese president, Xi Jinping, are hoping a relaxed two-day sit-down in California will help solidify a stronger personal relationship between the two leaders and move their countries past issues that have bedeviled relations in recent months, such as revelations of Chinese hacking of U.S. companies and government networks.
But if a new study by the Pew Research Center is any indication, even if the leaders exit the summit on better terms, it's unlikely to easily translate into more trust between the two peoples.
Pew says American attitudes toward China "have turned sharply negative over the last two years," while Chinese views of the U.S. have been in steady decline since their high point after Obama's 2010 visit to China.
The breakdown of opinion on both sides is striking for its similarity. According to the poll:
-- 52 percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of China, while just 37 percent express a favorable view. In 2011, the balance of opinion was just the opposite — 51 percent held a favorable opinion, while just 36 percent gave China an unfavorable rating.
-- 53 percent of Chinese view the U.S. unfavorably, compared with 40 percent with a favorable view. That compares to 58 percent favorable to 37 percent unfavorable in the spring of 2010, just a few months after Obama's state visit to China.
Young people in both countries had the most favorable opinions of each other. Half of Chinese younger than 30 see the U.S. in a favorable light, while only 41 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds do and only 27 percent of 50-year-olds. In the U.S., 57 percent of those younger than 30 express a favorable opinion of China, compared with 35 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds and 27 percent of 50-year-olds.