The Asian Research Network


America's role in the Asia-Pacific

At a time when China is making clear its strategic regional ambitions and when a tumultuous US presidential campaign is raising concerns about the United States policy, there is a great interest throughout the Asia-Pacific in the role of the United States in the region. What do mass publics around the region believe about the US presence in the Asia-Pacific? How does public opinion around the region vary with respect to China’s rising influence? What elements of American influence carry more weight and in which countries? How likely is conflict in the region? How beneficial is increased trade with the United States, or China, for that matter?

To answer these questions and many more we fielded virtually identical surveys in five nations — Australia, China, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea. Many of the survey questions are identical with respect to the United States and China, permitting rigorous comparisons of public opinion both within and across countries with respect to the power and influence of the United States and China.

This process has benefited tremendously by the collaborative efforts of a network of six institutions across the Asia-Pacific: the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, the Perth USAsia Centre at the University of Western Australia, the Asahi Shimbun in Japan, the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in South Korea, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Indonesia and the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies in China.


Asian Research Network Report 2016

Click to download report

Key findings

Australia wants it both ways on China's rise and US influence

  • 69 per cent of Australians said China has more influence than the US in the Asia-Pacific
  • Only 11 per cent of Australians thought the US would be the most powerful nation in Asia in ten years' time
  • Australians had the second most negative assessment of Chinese ambitions behind the Japanese

China and Japan share a deep, mutual suspicion of one another, believing that either country could trigger a conflict in the Asia-Pacific

  • 43 per cent of Chinese respondents believe a China-Japan conflict is 'very' or 'extremely' likely
  • Negative views of China's influence in the region from Japanese respondents outweighed positive views by 60 percentage points
  • 56 per cent of Chinese respondents believed that Japan was most likely to start a conflict in the Asia-Pacific

Commerce – or the promise of it – trumps international rivalries and alliances in the Asia-Pacific

  • Australians desire stronger trade ties with both the United States and China, slightly favouring China
  • Only 46 per cent of Australians surveyed could accurately describe the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
  • Japan is indifferent towards increased trade with China, while Indonesia only has a slight preference for increased trade with the United States

Australia bucks Asia-Pacific trend on university study

  • 60 per cent of Australians would rather study in Australia than travel to the United States even if the cost was the same
  • Less than a quarter of South Koreans, Chinese, Japanese or Indonesian respondents would preference their own countries' universities over America's

Panel discussion

To launch the report and interpret the survey findings, the USSC and the Perth USAsia Centre welcomed to Australia the CEO and Editor of the FP Group (including Foreign Policy magazine) David Rothkopf.

Rothkopf joined a panel featuring Professor L. Gordon Flake, CEO of the Perth US Asia Centre, Professor Simon Jackman, CEO of the US Studies Centre, and James Brown, Adjunct Associate Professor and Director of Research at the US Studies Centre.



In the media

Tom Switzer   Malcolm Turnbull and and the president of China, Xi Jinping   Gordon Flake

Asia's confidence in America is fraying

Senior fellow Tom Switzer in The Wall Street Journal.



More Australians in favour of stronger ties with China than the US

Research director James Brown in The Guardian.



America's role in the Asia-Pacific

Perth USAsia Centre CEO Gordon Flake on ABC Radio National Between The Lines.


Simon Jackman   Julie Bishop and John Kerry   Illustration: Jim Pavlidis

Australian students opt for domestic universities over US

Chief executive officer Simon Jackman in The Australian.



Putting ANZUS in its place

John McCarthy in the Australian Strategic Policy Institute's The Strategist.



The once-in-a-generation change to our foreign policy

Senior fellow Tom Switzer in The Sydney Morning Herald.


More related media

Network partners

Asahi Shimbun   Asan   CSIS Indonesia 

The Asahi Shimbun

The Asahi Shimbun is one of the largest and oldest daily newspapers in Japan with a strong network throughout Japan and across the world, with 36 oversea bureaus. To strengthen the regional outreach, Asahi launched a Chinese-language site ‘朝日新聞中文網’, alongside of Asia & Japan Watch in English. Asahi also has a partnership with The Huffington Post Japan.


The Asan Institute of Policy Studies

The Asan Institute for Policy Studies is an independent, non-partisan think tank with the mandate to undertake policy-relevant research to foster domestic, regional, and international environments conducive to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, as well as Korean reunification.


Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Jakarta

The Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta is an independent, non-profit organisation focusing on policyoriented studies on domestic and international issues to improve policy making through policyoriented research, dialogue and public debate.

Perth USAsia Centre   Shanghai Institutes for International Studies    United States Studies Centre

Perth USAsia Centre

The Perth USAsia Centre, based at the University of Western Australia, is a non-partisan, not-for-profit institution that promotes stronger relationships between Australia, the Indo-Pacific and the United States by contributing to strategic thinking, policy development and enhanced networks between government, the private sector and academia.


Shanghai Institutes for International Studies

The Shanghai Institutes for International Studies is a comprehensive research organisation for studies of international politics, economy, security strategy and China’s external relations. It is dedicated to serving China’s modernisation drive, and for Shanghai’s openingup and economic development. It mainly studies the United States, Japan, Europe, Russia and the Asia- Pacific region, focusing on relations among major powers and China’s periphery environment.


United States Studies Centre

The United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney deepens Australia’s understanding of the United States through research, teaching and public engagement. Through rigorous analysis of American politics, foreign policy, economics, culture, and history, the Centre has become a national resource, building Australia’s awareness of the dynamics shaping American society — and critically — their implications for Australia.

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See also:


James Brown

Australia in firing line if US and China go to war

Associate Professor James Brown says Australia faces some tough decisions if tensions escalate between the US and China.

Simon Jackman

About the US Studies Centre

Centre CEO Simon Jackman explains the Centres wide range of teaching, research, study abroad and outreach activities.

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