A significant population of the United States, irrespective of their political inclinations, believe that the USA should hold China accountable for its human rights violations even if it leads to deteriorating economic relations between the two countries, a Pew Research Center survey conducted in February found.
Americans, Republicans and Democrats alike, share the view that the United States should promote human rights in China. Out of every 10 people surveyed, 7 feel that human rights should gain primacy over strengthening the country’s economic relations with China.
Only 26 per cent of the respondents felt that the US should focus on improving its trade ties with China, even if Beijing continues to commit human rights violations.
The findings were released at a time when the current US President Joe President is firming up a strategy to deal with the human rights violations carried out by the Communist regime in China. In his first call with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping, Biden expressed “fundamental concerns” about China’s insidious crackdown in Hong Kong and the brutal repression of its Uyghur population in the restive province of Xinjiang.
Unlike on other issues, where bipartisan support is hard to muster, there is hardly any variance in the opinions of Republicans and Democrats when it comes to human rights violations by China. About 72 per cent of Republicans and independents favouring the Republican Party want the US government to focus on human rights when dealing with China. It is, perhaps, one of the few issues when thoughts of Democrats and Republicans have converged. Around 75 per cent of each group thinks the US should promote human rights.
Besides, 84 per cent of the respondents think China’s human rights policies are a problem for the United States, including 50 per cent of them who think it is a “very serious” problem. Those terming the issue a “very serious” problem is up by 7 percentage point since last March and has risen among both Republicans and Democrats.
The survey claims that Republicans and Democrats are equally likely to characterise China’s gross human rights violations as a very serious concern for the United States.
Around 76 per cent of Americans surveyed by the Pew Research Center believe tensions between mainland China and Hong Kong are a problem for the US, and 31 per cent think it is a “very serious” problem. 38 per cent of conservative Republicans are particularly apt to term the issue a “very serious” problem as compared to moderate and liberal Republicans, conservative and moderate Democrats, and liberal Democrats (29% of whom say the same, respectively).
When respondents were asked an open-ended question about the first things that come to their mind when they think of China, one in five said human rights, including 3 per cent who specifically mentioned the Xinjiang region and the atrocities carried out on its Uyghur population. Here too, Democrats and Republicans were equally likely to mention human rights in their responses.
Partisan differences become pronounced when asked about overall importance of promoting human rights as US foreign policy priority
But, there is little political concurrence about the importance of promoting and defending human rights in countries other than China. A third of Americans believe the US should foreground human rights as a top US foreign policy aim, and the issue ranked 15th in a list of 20 issues tested—markedly lower than the 48 per cent who think restricting China’s power and influence should be a top foreign policy goal.
Partisan divergence becomes starker when enquired about the overall importance of promoting human rights as a broad policy priority as compared to China in particular. Democrats and those leaning towards Democrats are likely to list promoting and defending human rights in other countries as a top US foreign policy priority (42 per cent) as compared to Republicans and Republican-leaning independents(23 per cent).