The FINANCIAL — 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.