A recent survey by the University of Sydney’s United States Studies Center shows that people across the Asia-Pacific believe American power in the area is waning. However, the online poll, that surveyed 750 people from Australia, China, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea also shows that many of these people see America’s influence in the area as strong and positive. Despite the positive reception of American influence many citizens believe it is only a matter of time before China overpowers the U.S. presence in the region.
The poll report stated that people in the Asia-Pacific generally believe we have seen the
“high-water mark” of American Power in the region. There is a consensus that America’s “best days” have passed and that China will eventually replace the U.S. as the world’s number one super power.
Australians were the second most likely to report China has more influence in Asia than the U.S. They were also the most likely to call the U.S. and China competitors. The report claims that Australians were jaded by their distance from China and Asia and the fact that China is Australians largest trading partner. These factors led Australian citizens to be less concerned about China’s rise and more open to the possibility of cutting their strong ties with the United States.
Despite public opinion both Australian and U.S. officials disagree with the results of the poll. Ross Babbage, a former Australian assistant defense secretary, claims Australian officials don’t see China passing the U.S. in the foreseeable future. Baggage commented on the issue by stating:
“The U.S. has challenges, and certainly China is rising, but there is a lot of [Australian] interest in encouraging the Americans to play a stronger roll, including opening up access for American forces to operate here.”
To back up his claim Babbage cited a poll from the Lowy Institute that shows a majority Australian citizens have a positive view of the U.S. and ranked it in it’s top 3 list of allies, losing out to the United Kingdom and New Zealand but still ranking well above China. The Lowy poll also showed that approximately 80% of Australians viewed Australia-U.S. relations as important to the well-being on Australia.
Ralph Cossa, of the Pacific Forum think tank in Hawaii, also chimed in with criticisms of the original poll. He states that, despite China being much strong than it was just ten years ago, they have not significantly closed the power gap between China and the U.S. Cossa released the following statement claiming China is more in danger of a downturn than the U.S:
“If anyone is facing hard times right now, it is China, Economically they are in a downturn and politically they are more mistrusted than ever. Militarily they are pushing their weight around but getting pushback from the Japanese and others.”
Cossa believes that pollsters in the Asia-pacific area are mislead due to their limited perspective and that on a global scale the Chinese have a long way to come before challenging the U.S. for the title of the worlds largest superpower. He compared the Chinese’s perceived power to “The Wizard of Oz” in a recent report regarding the issue.
“Like the Wizard of Oz, a small guy trying to cast a big shadow. It looks big if you are in the Philippines but small if you are the U.S. 7th Fleet,”