US sees China as top economy: poll

WASHINGTON, February 14, 2011 (AFP) - Most Americans believe China is the world's leading economy, even though in reality the rising Asian power's GDP trails that of the United States, a poll said Monday.

Some 52 percent of Americans said China was the "leading economic power in the world today," against 32 percent who said their own country, the Gallup poll said. The percentage who said China has soared over recent years.

Seven percent identified Japan as the leading economic power, according to the poll, which surveyed 1,015 US adults this month.

The poll was released as data showed that China became the world's second largest economy in 2010, dethroning Japan which held the title for 42 years.

But at $5.879 trillion, China's GDP last year was still well below the $14.660 trillion in the United States, according to preliminary figures from the two countries.

However, some economists believe that China -- which has four times the US population and, as a developing country, much faster growth -- will overtake the United States in the 2020s.

Asked who would be the leading economic power in 20 years, 47 percent of Americans said China, with 35 percent saying their own country, the poll said. Small number said Japan, the European Union and India.

The role of China has become politically charged in the United States, as lawmakers across the spectrum voice concern about its holdings of US debt and its massive industry in inexpensive manufactured goods.

The Gallup findings were similar to a poll released in January by the Pew Research Center, which found that 47 percent of Americans believed China was the top economic power.

But surveys have also found that US public views of China are nuanced. An earlier survey by the Pew Research Center found that 49 percent of Americans saw China favorably and 36 percent saw it unfavorably -- a more upbeat view of China than that in most European nations, Japan, India and South Korea.