By a margin of 50% to 26%, Americans say China should be allowed to proceed at its own pace. The poll, conducted jointly by Bloomberg News and the Los Angeles Times, also indicated that making the yuan flexible was more important than being forced to make changes to reduce the trade gap with the U.S
That view contrasts with the atmosphere and rhetoric in the U.S. Congress, where at least 15 legislative measures have been introduced in the past year addressing trade and currency issues with China. Senators Charles Schumer and Lindsey Graham are among politicians who say China is keeping the yuan artificially weak to increase exports.“China is on its way to being an economic giant,” said Rick Haverman, a 46-year-old high school history teacher in Spokane Washington, who participated in the poll. “That trumps the trade deficit, which I see as more of a short-term problem.” Americans are also supportive of foreign investment in the U.S., with nearly 7 in 10 saying overseas companies should be allowed to put money into some areas of the economy, according to the survey of 1,357 adults conducted from April 8 to April 11. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3%age points.
The news isn't all good for overseas companies looking to do business in the U.S. Fifty-one% said some restrictions on investment are more important than the jobs such investments create.
The conclusions suggest Congress may be less likely to impose penalties on China, given the lack of public support. Exports, including to the U.S., helped China’s economy vault ahead of the U.K. in the fourth quarter to become the world's fourth largest.
Haverman's attitude, typical of many respondents contacted after the poll, probably reflects current economic prosperity, says Nicholas Lardy, a senior fellow at the Institute for International Economics in Washington. The U.S jobless rate matched a four-year low of 4.7% in March and the Conference Board's measure of consumer confidence climbed to the highest since 2002.
The value of the yuan will likely be discussed by President George W. Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao when Hu arrives in Washington next week. Bush has chosen to tread lightly on the topic, while Congress has been pressing him to force the issue. A Senate bill sponsored by Schumer, a Democrat from New York, and Graham, a South Carolina Republican, would impose 27.5% tariffs on Chinese imports unless the yuan rises. They delayed a vote on their bill until September.
Ties With China
As for American attitudes on U.S.-China relations, “the two things aren't contradictory,” Schumer wrote in an e-mail yesterday in response to questions. “A good relationship with China in part depends on their willingness to stop manipulating their currency.”
Lines in the Sand
Only 16% of Americans say foreigners should be barred from investing in the U.S. At the same time, just one in 10 said foreigners should have carte blanche to buy whatever they want. Most said foreigners, including those in Arab countries, should be allowed to invest in “some areas” of the U.S. economy.
Jobs may also be the issue there, said Lardy. “There's a fairly widespread understanding that foreign investment in the U.S. helps create jobs,” he said.