Chinese See Environment As Biggest Security Threat

What does China see as its greatest threat? Beijing may finger the U.S., but a new poll of Chinese public opinion shows that people on the ground are more worried about the environment and domestic woes than geopolitical ­enemies. 

Conducted by the Lowy Institute for International Policy and the MacArthur Foundation, the study found that three quarters of Chinese pointed to environmental problems such as climate change as a major threat to China's security, while 67 percent cited water and food shortages, and 58 percent said internal separatists. Only half of respondents thought the U.S. posed a security threat, and 45 percent still worried about Japan (though the survey indicated that would change if Japan were to acquire nuclear weapons). The other big regional players--India, Russia, and South Korea--were seen as relatively negligible risks. 

Still, there is one area where foreign governments worry the Chinese: sovereign investment. Close to 80 percent opposed the idea of a Japanese government-owned company buying a controlling stake in a major Chinese firm, and 70 percent opposed such an investment by the U.S. government. The only country that received support for such a move was Singapore--perhaps another sign that China feels it has its thumb firmly on the rest of the region.

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