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.