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Majority of Chinese See Benefits From Trade

Majority of Chinese See Benefits From Trade

by Linda Lyons

Story Highlights

  • Seven in 10 Chinese favor increased trade
  • Similar numbers say trade helps domestic companies and workers
  • Young, educated Chinese view trade the most favorably

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- While China is not currently part of the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, the country could join the free-trade deal if it is made. This prospect makes some trade deal skeptics nervous, particularly given China's recent currency devaluation, but Chinese consumers themselves would likely look favorably on the increased trade. The majority (69%) of Chinese say the greater availability of products and goods from different parts of the world is a good thing for their country.

Is the greater availability of products and goods from different parts of the world a good thing or a bad thing for this country? September 2014 results

Majorities Say Increased Trade Helps Chinese Companies and Workers

Although its economic growth has slowed, China's consumption has still been growing faster than that of almost any other country in absolute terms. This makes residents' favorable views toward foreign products and goods understandable. It also helps that Chinese see few domestic downsides to increased trade between their country and others. Nearly three in four Chinese (74%) believe increased trade mostly helps, rather than hurts, domestic companies, and two in three (67%) say it mostly helps Chinese workers.

Do you believe increased trade between China and other countries mostly helps or mostly hurts domestic companies? Do you believe increased trade between China and other countries mostly helps or mostly hurts WORKERS in this country? September 2014 results

Nearly Two-Thirds Believe Foreign-Built Factories Help China's Economy

While China's slowdown is forcing Western manufacturers to re-evaluate their businesses there, few Chinese object to their presence on Chinese soil. More than six in 10 Chinese (63%) agree that foreign companies building factories in China are mostly helping the nation's economy overall.

In general, when foreign companies build factories in this country, does this mostly help or mostly hurt China’s economy? September 2014 results

These data regarding the positive effects of international trade are consistent with 2014 findings from a Pew Research Center report assessing the potential effect that opinions about trade could have on the current negotiations for both the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. According to Pew, 86% of those surveyed in Asian countries (including China) say "growing trade and business ties with other countries" is good for their country; 78% in all emerging nations tested also agree with that sentiment.

Younger and More Educated Chinese View International Trade Most Positively

Chinese adults younger than age 35 are significantly more likely than their older counterparts to respond positively to all four trade questions. For example, more than seven in 10 Chinese younger than 35 say increased trade between China and other countries mostly helps workers in that country, compared with 59% of those aged 50 and older.

Impact of Trade, by Age Group

Chinese residents with higher levels of education are also more apt to express the opinion that international trade is beneficial versus those with less formal schooling. Sixty-nine percent of those with an elementary-level education, for instance, believe international trade mostly helps domestic companies, versus 87% of university graduates who say that.

Impact of Trade, by Level of Education, September 2014

Young Chinese More Likely to Have an Opinion About Trade Issues

In general, relatively small percentages of Chinese -- from 20% to 26% -- do not express an opinion about trade, possibly indicating how important the topic is in China. But younger Chinese residents (aged 15 to 34) are more likely to have an opinion about trade than adults aged 50 and older, who are roughly twice as likely to say they do not know enough about these trade questions to respond to them. Of course, the younger age groups have grown up with international trade, while those who experienced a Chinese centrally planned economic system may still struggle to grasp the concept.

Bottom Line

Solid majorities of Chinese -- especially those who are younger and more educated -- currently see increased international trade as beneficial to domestic companies and workers, the availability of global products as a good thing for their nation, and foreign companies building factories in China as an asset to the nation's economy. It will be telling to see if the cooling Chinese economy and stock market volatility of the past year, as well as the recent currency devaluation, will result in some loss of public confidence in the open-market system that has fueled China's rapid-fire economic expansion over the last few decades.

Survey Methods

Results are based on interviews with 4,696 adults, aged 15 and older, including a national sample conducted face-to-face in China and an oversample conducted by landline telephone in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou in September 2014. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±2.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

Learn more about how the Gallup World Poll works.

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