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What's trust got to do with it?

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Neither the U.S. nor China trusts the other very much, but a majority of people in both countries think that U.S.-China relations are "good." This semi-optomistic conclusion is the outcome of the U.S-China Security Perceptions Survey, which analyzes public attitudes in both countries with the goal of "reducing the likelihood of future bilateral conflicts" and is conducted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The results of the survey were released last Wednesday.

The survey generated a rather ambivalent outcome; despite the lack of mutual trust, neither country really considers the other an "enemy," and while a majority of responders consider the other country a competitor, not many people think of the U.S. and China as being on the same team. The survey recommends that these epitomes of East and West think hard about Taiwan, establish clear rules on cybersecurity, and "reconcile divergent views of global order,"among other suggestions.

The months-long survey gathered data from 1,004 American adults and 2,597 Chinese adults, not including over 300 "elites" from each country (the study defines elites as government officials, scholars, business leaders and other professionals).

More Americans than Chinese thought that building a strong international relationship was "very important," yet a majority of Americans want to be "tough" with China on volatile issues at the same time. These findings point to the strong pride of both countries; Americans are perhaps more likely to take a hard-line stance on issues like human rights, while the Chinese hesitate to build close ties to a country that they may view as uncompromising. The intent of the study —starting a conversation about common ground to reduce the chances of future conflict between the U.S. and China — is a noble one. For two superpowers with arguably the most political, social and economic differences of any two countries in the world, agreeing to disagree may be the best result possible.

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