Public Perceptions of International Leadership in China and the United States
Public Perceptions of International Leadership in China and the United States
Stefano Burzo 0
Xiaojun Li 0
0 Department of Political Science, University of British Columbia , C425-1866 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1 , Canada
Many fear that with Trump taking the helm, the United States will scale back its international leadership role in global governance, leaving a void that is too big for any single country to fill. Others are hopeful that emerging powers such as China will be able to step in and provide international leadership to solve global governance challenges, from climate change to nuclear nonproliferation. In this study, we explore the Chinese and American publics' perceptions and views on international leadership in the Trump era. Results from two parallel surveys conducted in China and the United States shed light on how ordinary citizens in these two countries conceptualize international leadership and how their views contrast with conventional wisdom and with each other. Given the increasingly larger role played by public opinion in the foreign policies of both democratic and authoritarian countries, the findings of this study will have important policy implications. On June 1, 2017, President Trump announced that the US would withdraw from all nonbinding parts of the Paris Agreement, a global effort to tackle climate change. The US action goes against almost every other country in the world that signed the
International leadership; States; Global governance
agreement, including unlikely signatories such as North Korea. Many read the US
withdrawal as an abdication of a valued piece of hard-won US international
leadership, the latest in a series of events that included ‘‘sowing doubt at NATO’’
and ‘‘killing the Trans-Pacific Partnership’’
(Morello and Wagner 2017)
Hyperbolically, and yet with some truth to it, some even declared that ‘‘the United States
[has] resigned as the leader of the free world. It is nothing short of that’’ (Zakaria
If the United States is relinquishing its leadership, can emerging powers such as
China step in and provide international leadership to solve global governance
challenges, from climate change to nuclear nonproliferation? The debate about the
leadership abilities and prospects of the United States and China has already been
firmly established in the literature. Some argue in the favor of the rise of China
(Angang 2011; Subramanian 2011; Acharya 2011; Beeson 2013)
and a critical
appraisal of US power (Layne 2012), while others argue in the favor of continuing
(Brainard and Lipton 2008)
, offering limited support for the Beijing
or for the possibility of long-term Chinese economic
Still, for China, the world’s second-largest economy, leadership seems hardly
avoidable. This presents an opportunity for key interlocutors to engage with China
as it grapples with its new position in ways that support its interests and that
embrace responsibility and global leadership. In today’s world, key interlocutors
include a plethora of state and international actors, as well as domestic
constituencies. The existing scholarship on international leadership has thus far
focused extensively on the former
(e.g., Destradi 2010; Gallarotti 2005; Helms
2014; Ikenberry 1996; Lake 1993; Lucarelli 2014)
but paid relatively little attention
to the role played by the latter. In this light, it seems cogent to look at the domestic
constituencies of the United States and China, given the emphasis of the leadership
literature on these two countries.
In this study, we make a first step toward understanding public perceptions of
international leadership. We do so by fielding two concurrent public opinion surveys
in China and the United States. The surveys elicit views about the theory of
international leadership to which respondents implicitly subscribe, together with
more empirical questions about their perceptions of the current and future landscape
in international leadership. They also allow us to take a closer look at how ordinary
citizens in these two countries conceptualize international leadership and how their
views contrast with conventional wisdom and with each other.
Overall, we find considerable similarities in the understanding of international
leadership among Chinese and US respondents, with a few notable exceptions.
While Chinese respondents believe that international leadership is indivisible and
needs to be provided by one country only, US respondents reject this idea, implying
that several countries can be international leaders at the same time.
Counterintuitively, more than two-thirds of the respondents in both surveys believe that other
countries should help a declining leader fulfill its role and take its place. Whether
China or the European countries decide to go one way or the other will have
palpable consequences for the abdicating United States and for the rest of the world.
Unsurprisingly, we also find that Chinese respondents tend to consider China
more of an international leader than US respondents do. The same is true for US
respondents regarding the United States. Respondents in both countries are in
remarkable agreement when it comes to ranking the US, China, and the other G7
countries in terms of their relative power. However, while 71 and 37% of Chinese
respondents believe that China and Russia, respectively, can lead, only 23 and 11%
of the US respondents agree. Instead, US respondents have much more faith in the
leadership of the UK, Germany, France, Japan, and Canada than to their Chinese
The rest of this article is organized as follows. In Sect. 2, we survey the existing
literature by summarizing the main theories of international leadership and the
relevance of domestic audiences, stating the alternative theories of international
leadership we will be investigating. In Sect. 3, we discuss the survey questionnaire
and the questions designed to tap into public views and perceptions of international
leadership. In Sect. 4, we provide details about participant recruitment in China and
the United States. In Sect. 5, we present and discuss the most relevant findings, in
light of the prevailing and alternative theories of international leadership. The final
2 Literature Review
, leadership is a process that is concerned with
influence, occurs within a group context, and involves goal attainment. The fact that
leadership occurs within a group suggests a fundamental role played by the interests
of followers, independently—at least in principle—of the material resources of the
. There is a diffuse consensus that international leadership is
mainly about two things: facilitating the solution of collective action problems
and providing public goods in specific issue areas
. In other words, such leadership is not just about power and the
selfinterested purpose of attaining material gains (Ikenberry 1996) but entails leading
the international community in solving global issues that can include, but are not
limited to: political and economic stability, environmental protection, and
A very influential typology suggested by
types of leadership: structural—based on material power; institutional—based on
rules and procedures; and situational—based on individual actors and specific
actions. This view has since been contested. More recent categorizations of
leadership tend to focus on two types only: structural leadership, based on material
power, and behavioral leadership, based on actual actions
typology is closer to the Northouse’s (2010) definition, with an emphasis on the
relationship between leaders and followers, and highlights the capacity of the leader
to transform its resources into the ability to lead while others are willing to follow
The emphasis on the followers means a country’s superiority in terms of material
capabilities alone does not automatically translate into leadership
because the latter needs purpose around which followers rally
other words, there can be some form of power that comes from ideas even when the
country may lack the power of position
. A prime example is soft
power, the ability of a country to persuade others to follow by setting examples
without having to resort to force or coercion
. According to
leading by example stabilizes the system and produces efficient outcomes with
minimal transaction costs. In addition to soft power,
urges us to look at
‘‘leadership projects,’’ namely projects in which resources are mobilized by the
leader to achieve a common goal (which could be inclusive or extractive in nature).
Leadership projects are relevant for the response they elicit from followers—they
follow or do not.
Empirically, however, few studies carefully and systematically try to gauge the
causes or effects of international leadership, whether concerning formal or informal
(for one exception on formal leadership, see Tallberg 2010)
This may be due to the nature of the topic and its debated boundaries, especially
with respect to hegemony.
According to the international relations literature, it is not always clear how to
distinguish in practice a leader from a hegemon. For
typology is based on
Ikenberry and Kupchan (1990)
, the main difference concerns
not the means (both may use coercion) but the end: a hegemon’s goals are primarily
self-interested, while a leader’s goals are generally of a more collective nature. In
practice, however, these may be difficult to distinguish: if collective goals advance
the interests of the leader more than anybody else’s, is that hegemony? This goes
back somewhat to the classic argument by
, according to whom
hegemonic states provide public goods but then recuperate some of the costs from
In the economic sphere,
argues that the difference is between the
maintenance of the international economic infrastructure (leadership) versus the
maintenance of economic openness (hegemony). While for Kindleberger, a single
leader is necessary to provide the public good of international stability,
argues that a single leader is neither necessary nor sufficient for the provision of an
international public good. Note that free trade is not a public good (excludable and
rival), which makes the argument consistent with the definition of international
leadership in terms of public good provision. Along the same lines,
, who agrees that America’s relative material capabilities and power position
has been declining, nonetheless argues that this does not impact its current
An alternative to the hegemonic stability theory and its variants is the proposal by
, who argues that secondary powers can serve important leadership
functions even if they have a primary interest in their domestic politics over foreign
policy. He refers to the leadership functions of the Bank of France as a ‘‘limited
lender of first resort’’ under the classical gold standard (1880–1914), even though
Great Britain was the undisputed leader and hegemon. He argues that leadership is
more relevant than hegemony as a concept in international relations, because it
occurs more often than hegemony.
Even if we can agree on the definition of international leadership and set aside its
difference from hegemony, a more controversial question is the relationship
between secondary powers (some of which are potential future leaders) and the
current leader. When an international leader (or hegemon) is in decline, either
unable or unwilling to take on its leadership responsibilities, will it be in the
interests of other states to bear the costs of supporting the system? This question has
never been more relevant than in today’s world. Some argue China is in a good
position to lead
(Acharya 2011; Beeson 2013)
; others believe that the US can still
lead (Brainard and Lipton 2008). Still others argue that countries such as Japan and
Germany could be a viable option to take on leadership roles if they were willing to
bear the costs—for example, by opening their markets to foreign competitors
It may well be the case that we are transitioning into a world of collective
leadership, with different countries taking on leadership roles in different issue
areas. As the number of potential international leaders increases, it may be
appropriate to ask how to recognize a global leader, as opposed to a hegemon or
other kind of influential actors
. The key is followership. Followers
may indeed be as important for leadership as the leaders themselves, or even more,
when looked at from a historical perspective
that the potential succession from the US to China as an international leader will
depend more on the followers than on material capabilities.
has argued that the evolution of international norms is determined by
both international and domestic factors. This is also true for international leadership.
Surprisingly, the relevance of the domestic context for international leadership has
not received much attention in the literature. Not until recently have scholars been
probing the role domestic factors play in international outcomes through
(Kaarbo 2015; Lantis 2005)
. Helms (2014), for example, argues
that truly global political leadership overcomes the separation between national and
similarly provides historical evidence that
US leadership after WWII was based on the domestic context in European countries
at that time—not on the international position of the USSR. International leadership
‘‘must begin at home,’’ it must be rooted in domestic politics. In this light, it seems
cogent to look at the domestic constituencies of the United States and China in
particular, given the emphasis of the leadership literature on these two countries.
3 Research Design
We explore the public’s perceptions on international leadership by fielding two
parallel surveys in China and the United States. Practically speaking, public
perception of international leadership matters to potential or actual international
leaders so long as public opinion may constrain the viable number of options
available to decision makers in these countries
(Shirk 2007; Helms 2014)
evidence suggests this is the case for both the United States (Carson 2016) and
(Steinberg and O’Hanlon 2015)
. There is also evidence that the public is
aware of its relevance, direct or indirect, for foreign policy—as are decision makers
(Tomz et al. 2017). The literature on audience costs
(Fearon 1994; Schultz 2001)
further suggests that public opinion could spur governments to action out of
concerns for electoral loss (in the case of the US) or regime instability (in the case of
The main part of the surveys for both countries consists of two sets of questions.
The first set of questions is aimed at eliciting the public’s views about nonspecific
yet realistic statements derived from theories of international leadership. There is a
total of 12 statements, and respondents were asked whether they strongly agreed,
somewhat agreed, somewhat disagreed or strongly disagreed with each statement:
If a country is an international leader, whatever it does is leadership.
If a country shows leadership at any time, it becomes a leader.
Strong international leadership needs to be provided by one country only.
If a country is an international leader, it has a responsibility to maintain
international order and stability—bearing the costs.
To be an international leader, a country needs to open its market to foreign
goods and capital.
If a country is an international leader, it is up to the country to initiate a
relationship with followers.
If a country is a follower, it should initiate a relationship with a country which
is a leader.
Even if a country is an international leader, it should always worry about its
citizens first and foremost—even at the expense of citizens of other countries.
If the leadership of a country is declining, other countries should help it fulfill
If the leadership of a country is declining, other countries should take its place.
If a country is an international leader, its citizens can limit the viable options
the country can pursue internationally.
If a country is an international leader, the viable policies it can pursue
We designed these questions in correspondence to earlier discussions on theories
of international leadership, including: whether international leadership can be
thought of more as ‘‘structural leadership,’’ based on power, or as ‘‘behavioral
leadership,’’ based on actions
; whether international leadership is
indivisible or can belong to a group of countries
; who should initiate
the leader–follower relationship
; what the responsibility of the
leader is in terms of solving collective action problems and bearing the costs
(Ikenberry 1996; Gallarotti 2005)
; and whether being in a position of international
leadership enlarges or shrinks the policy options available to domestic policy
makers (Shirk 2007).
1 Government sometimes may drive public opinion to strengthen its bargaining position
The strategic manipulation of public opinion is more likely in China, given the government’s control over
; however, the rise of the Internet and social media has made it easier for news
to spread and spark online outrage, forcing Chinese leaders to react
In contrast to these stylized and somewhat abstract statements, the second set of
questions is more grounded in empirical perceptions. First, we asked respondents:
‘‘In your opinion, comparing the United States, China, and the European Union at
the moment, who plays more of a leadership role’’ in five crucial areas of global
governance: maintaining international security, protecting the global environment,
sustaining the global economy, fighting transnational terrorism, and promoting
universal human rights?2 The same question is repeated later in the survey but with
a future time frame (‘‘in 10 years’’). We then asked respondents to rank China,
Russia, and the G7 countries (except Italy) on the basis of their perceived power and
asked which of these countries is/are more likely to be followed if leading by
example. We used these questions to check whether the most prominent power is
always perceived as the leader
. Finally, respondents were asked to rank
the importance of five leadership qualities: economic power, military power,
number of other countries that follow the leader, number of citizens of other
countries that follow the leader, and ability to launch projects that address global
These two sets of questions were asked one after the other. The order was
randomized to avoid the potential risk that (1) having been asked about specific
countries, the respondents’ theoretical responses would be driven by the countries
we presented as possible answers and (2) having been asked about theoretical
questions, the respondents’ the empirical responses would be driven by the
theoretical options we suggested (i.e., by making a specific respondent think of a
specific country). The options presented in the answers were also generally
randomized (e.g., the initial list of countries to be ranked) to avoid systematic
influences arising from the order. At the end of the survey, respondents were asked a
series of standard sociodemographic questions such as age, gender, education, and
4 Participant Recruitment
We fielded the surveys simultaneously in China and the United States. We used a
market research firm for participant recruitment in China and a crowdsourcing
platform in the US. Respondents were randomly drawn from the firm’s/platform’s
online subject pool in the two countries. The China survey was in the field between
May 30 and June 5, 2017, yielding a total of 713 responses, most of which were
collected on May 31. The US survey was in the field between May 28 and June 1,
2017, yielding a total of 501 responses, with nearly all of them collected in the first
The average age of our Chinese respondents is 39.1 and 64% are male. The vast
majority are Han Chinese (97.3%) and urban residents (87%), based on their
household registration status. Over 40% of our respondents come from Beijing
(12.4%), Shanghai (18.5%), and Guangdong (12.8%), and no respondents are from
2 Due to political sensitivity, in the Chinese survey ‘‘universal human rights’’ was changed to ‘‘global
Guizhou, Yunnan, Tibet, Qinghai, or Ningxia. More than three-quarters (75.3%) of
the respondents have college degrees, and the average number of years of schooling
is 15. The median household income reported by the respondents is between
100,000 and 200,000 Yuan; 13.8% of the respondents reported an annual household
income less than 30,000 Yuan and 18.3% over 300,000 Yuan. In addition, 38.6% of
the respondents work in the state sector and 27.2% are Communist party members.
In terms of the knowledge relevant to our study, 91.4% respondents answered that
they are very or fairly interested in China’s foreign affairs and that their primary
source of news is the Internet and social media.
Our average, US respondents are about 34 years old, with half of the respondents
being at least 30 years old. Respondents come from 47 US states or territories; nine
of the first 10 most populous states are also the states from which we received the
most responses. Over 75% of the surveyed sample has 1 year of college or more.
About 50% are self-employed or employed full-time, and they are generally spread
across the spectrum of professions. The income distribution is a bit skewed to the
right, with about 50% of respondents earning between $10,000 and $60,000 USD a
year. The majority of our respondents are Democrats (43%), followed by
Independents (27%), and Republicans (16%). Hence, it not surprising that more
respondents identified themselves as liberal (59.5%) than conservative (22.5%).
More than 65% of the respondents reported dealing with news about international
affairs at least once a day. On average, a respondent is also more likely to get her
news from online sources rather than radio or the printed newspapers and
magazines; social media and discussion with other people are also a relatively
Overall, both of our samples represent younger, richer, better informed, and
politically more active portions of the Chinese and American populations than the
average person. These demographic profiles are similar to online samples drawn in
other studies conducted in China
(Huang 2015; Tai and Truex 2015; Li and Zeng
and the United States
(Huff and Tingley 2015)
. While recent works in public
opinion research confirm that online samples in the US tend to differ from
population-based samples on many demographic and political variables
Berinsky et al. 2012; Clifford and Jerit 2014; Krupnikov and Levine 2014)
same authors also show that researchers can still make credible and generalizable
inferences based on online samples. Similarly, in the case of China, a recent study
concludes that online samples are more representative of Chinese netizens than of
the general population
(Li et al. 2017)
. However, one could argue that they are in
fact the more politically attentive segment of Chinese society, who are more likely
to express discontent with the government and whose opinions tend to have more
influence on policy decision-making
We first examine public perceptions about the theoretical questions on international
leadership in the first part of the survey. To do so, we calculate the percentages of
responses (‘‘Strongly agree,’’ ‘‘Somewhat agree,’’ ‘‘Somewhat disagree,’’ ‘‘Strongly
disagree,’’ and ‘‘Don’t know’’) for each statement from the Chinese and American
respondents and place them side by side for comparison. We also fit a series of
ordered logit models to explore which individual-level factors affect respondent
choices.3 In the models for US respondents, we include age, gender, education,
income, party affiliation, news readership, source of news, and a measure of
political ideology. In the models for Chinese respondents, we include age, gender,
education, income, CCP membership, household registration, interest in
international affairs, and source of news.
In Fig. 1, starting from the top left panel, we can see that Chinese respondents are
nearly evenly split (49 versus 45%) about whether strong leadership needs to be
provided by one country only. In contrast, the majority (85%) of US counterparts
believe that strong leadership can be provided by more than one country.
Remarkably, there seems to be almost no difference between the percentages of US
and Chinese respondents who believe that other countries should help a declining
international leader and those who believe that other countries should take the place
of a declining leader. There is also considerable overlap between the two responses;
3 For brevity, we only report the key findings from these models. Full estimation results are available
over 70% of those who believe that other countries should take the place of a
declining leader also believe that other countries should help a leader fulfill its role
(71% for China and 78% for the US). Finally, the majority of respondents in both
countries agree that even if a country is an international leader, it should always
worry about its citizens first and foremost. The proportion of respondents in
agreement with the statement is higher among US respondents.
In Fig. 2, the top row shows that the majority of Chinese and US respondents
believe that both followers and leaders are responsible for initiating a leader–
follower relationship. However, US respondents are more likely than their Chinese
counterparts to believe that it is the leader who should initiate the relationship.
Focusing on the bottom row, we again see general agreement between the Chinese
and US respondents: 80% or more in both surveys strongly or somewhat agree that
an international leader needs to open its markets to foreign goods and capital and
has a responsibility to maintain order and stability. Chinese respondents feel more
strongly about an international leader’s responsibility to maintain order and stability
than their US counterparts.
In Fig. 3, the top row shows that Chinese respondents on average are more likely
to subscribe to a behavioral conception of leadership (77 versus 52%). US
respondents, on average, are equally unlikely to support a structural or a behavioral
conception of leadership (35 versus 38%). Interestingly, over 50% of the Chinese
respondents who support structural leadership also support behavioral leadership.
The bottom row exhibits similar patterns. Respondents from both countries seem to
suggest that being in a position of international leadership enlarges the domestic
policy options but shrinks the international policy options available to domestic
Overall, the above comparisons show considerable similarities in the
understanding of international leadership among the Chinese and US respondents, with
one notable exception. While Chinese respondents believe that international
leadership is indivisible and needs to be provided by one country only, US
respondents reject this idea, implying that more countries can be international
leaders at the same time. In terms of demographic variables, political ideology is
significant in the majority of the models with the US respondents. Conservatives,
not surprisingly, are more likely to think about US interests first in responding to the
questions, rejecting the notion, for example, that an international leader has a
responsibility to maintain international order and stability and to bear the costs in
doing so. In the models with the Chinese respondents, the one consistently
significant variable (in 10 out of 12 models) is the respondent’s interest in
international affairs, and the effect is always positive—that is, more interest in
international affairs makes the respondents more likely to agree with the statements.
We now turn to the empirical questions. First, as shown in Fig. 4, Chinese
respondents are much more likely than US respondents to see China as playing more
of a leadership role across the five areas of global governance, in ratios between 8:1
and 16:1. There are two notable exceptions. First, both Chinese and US respondents
agree that the US is the current international leader, with China being a close second
(a ratio of 1.5:1). The other is universal human rights, where only one US
respondent believes China is the international leader in promoting universal human
rights; on the same topic, more than half of the Chinese respondents believe China is
playing more of a leadership role. This stark contrast may be partially due to the
different wordings used in the two surveys (see footnote 2).
The perception of EU leadership is also different, with US respondents being
more likely than their Chinese counterparts to report the EU as the current
international leader across all five areas of global governance, compared to their
Chinese counterparts. Notably, US respondents are twice as likely to pick the EU as
the international leader in protecting the global environment and four times as likely
in promoting universal human rights.
US respondent are more likely to see the US as the international leader in fighting
transnational terrorism, maintaining international security, and promoting universal
human rights. Interestingly, Chinese respondents are more likely than US
respondents to attribute international environmental leadership to the US. About
the same percentage of US and Chinese respondents agree that the US is the
international leader in global economy—but about twice as many US respondents
compared with Chinese are unsure about international leadership in the economic
As shown in Fig. 5, when asked the same question in a prospective frame, both
US and Chinese respondents seem to suggest that China will play more of a
leadership role in 10 years compared to the present day, basically across all five
areas of global governance. Nevertheless, Chinese respondents are more likely than
US respondents to see China as a future leader, especially in universal human rights
and the global environment.4 Even though the gap between China and the US has
narrowed, US respondents still pick their own country over China as playing more
of a leadership role across the five areas, with the exception of global economy. US
respondents are also significantly more likely to see the EU as a future international
4 Concerning environmental leadership, it would be interesting to consider whether news about the US
pulling out of the Paris Agreement would change anything in this regard.
leader than Chinese respondents (2:1 ratio), especially with respect to promoting
universal human rights (6:1 ratio).
In Fig. 6, we can see that the opinions of Chinese and US respondents are
remarkably similar about the relative power status of the eight countries we asked
them to rank. The US is considered the most powerful country on average, China the
second most powerful, followed by Russia. The next four places are occupied by
two groups of countries: Germany, the UK, Japan, and France, with their individual
ranks slightly different in the two surveys. Canada takes last place. Interestingly,
Chinese respondents on average rank China as less powerful on average than US
respondents do; the same is true regarding the UK. Chinese respondents also see
France as more powerful than US respondents do.
When asked which of these eight countries is more likely to be followed, over
three-quarters of the respondents in both countries mentioned the US (Fig. 7).5 This
is consistent with the conjecture that the most prominent power is always perceived
as the leader
. In terms of the other seven countries, Chinese respondents
seem to follow the same logic with respect to how they rank their relative power
when deciding which one can lead: 71% say China, followed by Russia (37%),
Germany (17%), the UK (11%), France (7%), Japan (6%), and Canada (4%). In
contrast, only 23 and 11% of the US respondents agree that China and Russia,
respectively, can lead. Instead, US respondents have much more faith than their
5 For this question, respondents could pick more than one country.
Chinese counterparts in the leadership of the UK, Germany, France, Japan, and
The discrepancy can be reconciled when we look at how respondents in both
countries rank the relative importance of leadership qualities (Fig. 8). Here, we see
that US and Chinese respondents both put economic power near the top of the list.
The fact that existing scholarship overwhelmingly focuses on economic leadership
as a proxy for leadership seems to resonate with the public as well. Leadership
project also ranked high—second by US respondents and third by Chinese
respondents. One important difference concerns the relative importance of military
power, one of the top leadership qualities in both surveys: Chinese respondents
value it much more than US respondents, ranking it almost neck-and-neck with
economic power. US respondents, on the other hand, rank it lower than leadership
project. Another difference is in the relative importance of the number of countries
that follow the international leader; this seems to be more important for US
respondents. For both US and Chinese respondents, the number of individual
followers in foreign countries is at the bottom of the list.
In this study, we have explored the Chinese and American publics’ perceptions and
views on international leadership in the Trump era. Overall, we find both similarities
and differences among the Chinese and US respondents in their understanding of
international leadership and perceptions about the current and future landscape in
international leadership. Given the increasingly larger role played by public opinion
in the foreign policies of both democratic and authoritarian countries, the findings of
this study will have important policy implications.
Two more points are worth noting. In the short term, working on international
events is like riding the crest of a wave—everything is continually evolving, and it
is difficult to keep steady. As we ran the surveys, the US president decided to pull
out of the Paris Agreement. This means that both US and Chinese perceptions of US
international environmental leadership could have shifted following the event.
Researchers may shed light on this aspect in the near future. Our study can provide
the baseline against which future studies of international environmental leadership
may stack their findings.
In the longer term, our surveys raise questions about secondary powers. Are the
preferences of Chinese respondents representative of the peculiarities of China, or
are they more representative of the structural condition of an up-and-coming power?
Similarly, is the concern of US respondents about leadership project greater than
their Chinese counterparts’ due to the US context, or is it part of a structural concern
of undisputed hegemons, like the UK under the classical gold standard?
Analogously, what about the greater concern of Chinese respondents regarding
military power? These kinds of questions will likely require a much longer time
frame to answer. The present study can only offer suggestive evidence on them.
Acknowledgements Funding was provided by University of British Columbia’s Hampton Research
Grant (Grant no. F14-01146).
Stefano Burzo is a doctoral student at the University of British Columbia. He has an M.A. from the
University of Florence and a B.A. from the University of Bologna. His main research interests are in
international relations and international political economy.
Xiaojun Li is an assistant professor of Political Science at the University of British Columbia. His
research focuses on the domestic and international political economy of China. His work has appeared in
Asian Survey, Chinese Journal of International Politics, Foreign Policy Analysis, International Studies
Quarterly, and Journal of Contemporary China.
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