More than half of Americans (52%) see China as the greatest threat to the country, according to a Beacon Research poll commissioned by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Institute (RRPFI), a conservative think tank. By comparison, 14% said Russia was the main threat, and 12% said the same about North Korea.
Only 21% listed Beijing as the chief threat to the US in 2018, when RRPFI published its first annual national defense survey.
Additionally, 65% respondents said they considered China an enemy, while 23% said they viewed it as an ally.
"There is bipartisan consensus about the threats we face. For the first time, a majority of respondents say a single nation poses the greatest threat to the United States: China," RRPFI said in a statement.
Explaining what concerns them the most about China, those polled cited China's economic practices (20%), military build-up (19%), alleged human rights abuses (17%), and foreign policy (13%). Separately, 23% said they were concerned with Beijing's AI technology, and another 23% said they were concerned with supply chain vulnerability.
The number of Americans who think the US should concentrate its military forces in East Asia grew from 16% in 2019 to 37%, the survey shows. "Conversely, the percentage choosing the Middle East dropped from 37% in 2019 to 17%," Beacon Research said.
US-Chinese relations deteriorated significantly in recent years after Washington launched a trade war against Beijing during the Donald Trump administration. The countries also clashed on the world stage over issues ranging from allegations of hacking and espionage, to Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as accusing each other of stoking military tensions in the South China Sea.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier this year that China represents America's "biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century."
China has repeatedly urged the US to abandon what it considers a Cold War-like mentality. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin in June urged the US not to view Beijing as "an imaginary enemy."