President Trump began his nearly two-week tour of Asia with a stop in Japan yesterday, with further stops planned for South Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines. With American leadership of paramount importance for the region’s security in the face of North Korea’s nuclear provocations, now is a pertinent time to take a look at how these countries view the United States and vice-versa.
In June the Pew Research Center released a treasure trove of data focused on global attitudes toward the United States. The United States remains broadly popular in four of the five countries on the president’s tour (there is no data for China). The chart below provides both the image of the United States in the four countries for which Pew has data, as well as Gallup’s February 2017 country favorability ratings among Americans for the sake of comparison.
Unfortunately, Gallup has no recent data for Americans’ views toward Vietnam; the image data provided dates from 2003. Additionally, though there is no image data for the U.S. among the Chinese populace, China’s image among Americans was nearly evenly divided, clocking in at 50% favorable/48% unfavorable this past February.
What stand out in particular are the attitudes toward former enemies. A strong majority of Americans hold a favorable view of Japan despite the country’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and its aggression during the Second World War. Similarly, the vast majority of Vietnamese hold a favorable view of the United States despite the hostilities of the 1960s and ‘70s. While there is no current Gallup data for Americans’ view of Vietnam, it isn’t unreasonable to believe American attitudes to have improved since 2003.
While majorities in these countries hold a favorable view of the U.S., in all but one the U.S.’s image has taken a bit of a hit since 2015 (or, in the case of Japan, 2016). The chart below contains the U.S.’s image data comparisons among each country:
President Trump has his work cut out for him as he seeks both to reassure America’s Asian allies and buttress the U.S.’s image among their citizens.