- The Washington Times - Friday, September 1, 2000

If foreign policy were an episode of "Survivor," Americans would vote China off the island first and Canada would collect the $1 million jackpot, a new survey shows.

A Harris Poll has found that 86 percent of Americans rate Canada as either a "close ally" or a "friend," the highest tally for any of 18 countries polled. Just 2 percent rate America's northern neighbor as "unfriendly" or an enemy.

By contrast, just 3 percent characterize China as a close ally in the survey, along with another 24 percent who see the Asian power as a friend. Some 27 percent rank China as an enemy nearly twice as high as the next most-hostile response, 14 percent for Russia.

The poll numbers may not translate into American government concessions on lumber imports or fishing rights, but a Canadian Embassy official showed no qualms yesterday about playing up the warm feelings.

"The fact that a majority of Americans think of Canada as this country's closest ally makes sense, because we are," said Doug Waddell, Canada's charge d'affaires. "… The United States is a second home for many Canadians, and vice versa."

With tongue in cheek, Mr. Waddell also noted that "most importantly, Canada is the biggest source of entertainers for the United States" a reference to the artistic contributions of Canadian-born performers such as thespian William Shatner and chart-topping singers Shania Twain and Celine Dion.

At the other end of the spectrum, Chinese officials are clearly sensitive to U.S. public opinion, even as candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush wrestle over whether to treat China as a "strategic partner" (Mr. Gore) or a "strategic competitor" (Mr. Bush).

Zhao Qizheng, a minister in the Chinese State Council Information Office, told a National Press Club gathering this week that negative attitudes by U.S. voters about China could complicate diplomacy between the two powers.

"There are some people in the United States who want to find a reason to contain China, and these attempts have changed public opinion and have created an unfriendly atmosphere for China in the United States," the minister said.

"Over time, this will distort how American people see China, so that during a presidential election, candidates will feel that they have to say something negative about China," he contended.

Beyond any serious policy implications, the Harris poll, released Wednesday, provides that same guilty "Survivor"-ish thrill in seeing who likes whom best, whose star is on the rise, and whose diplomatic Tiki torch the average American would most like to snuff.

Anglophone countries, for instance, clearly have an edge. Canada, Britain and Australia hold the top three spots in the 18-country survey as close allies or friends.

Somewhat surprisingly, France is seen as the next closest international partner of the United States, with fully 73 percent of Americans rating France a close ally or friend.

The feeling may not be mutual: A 1999 poll in France found that 68 percent worry about America's status as the world's "sole superpower," and majorities agreed that the United States had "excessive influence" around the world on cultural, economic and military matters.

Israel proved the most polarizing country in the survey, ranking fifth highest in the closest ally competition (31 percent) and third highest in the most unfriendly rankings (8 percent) out-disliked only by Russia and China.

Taiwan (19 percent) rates as a closer U.S. ally than Chile (a meager 5 percent), but less of a friend than Mexico or Italy (in a statistical dead heat with 28 percent and 27 percent, respectively).

The poll data also imply that the United States has become a slightly less friendly place in the last couple of years. Based on 1999 and 2000 surveys, the percentage of Americans rating individual countries as close allies declined for every country listed except France and Japan, where the survey results were unchanged.

The survey, conducted the week of Aug. 10-14, polled a nationwide cross-section of 1,010 adults and has a margin of error of three percentage points.

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