In contrast, the US has slipped back into second place, with 29 per cent of the respondents viewing it as the biggest threat, down from 32 per cent in 2007.

 

Only in Spain was the US regarded as a bigger threat than China, by a 41 per cent to 28 per cent margin.

 

Yiyi Lu, a China studies scholar at Nottingham University in the UK, said the EU's ballooning trade deficit with China is causing rising anxiety among the European countries' public.

 

"The US has tolerated high deficit levels with China for many years, but it appears that many in Europe are not as tolerant", she told Al Jazeera.

Trade friction

The EU complains that China remains too closed to European investment and business while the bloc's trade deficit with the economic powerhouse surged to nearly 160 billion euros ($253 billion) last year, according to EU data.

"The Chinese tend to want to just show the good things, while the Western media focuses on negative issues"

Yiyi Lu, UK-based China scholar

Peter Mandelson, EU trade commissioner, said on Monday that China runs the risk of antidumping measures, warning that the deficit is "unsustainable and unacceptable".

"We look to China to take appropriate measures to increase access to its markets, increase intellectual property protection", he said.

"Just more talks won't satisfy the EU. We need delivery".

A cultural divide between China and the West is responsible for Beijing's shock at critical coverage of China's lead up to its hosting of the Olympic games in August, Lu said.

"China has been doing a bad public relations job. The Chinese tend to want to just show the good things, while the Western media focuses on negative issues", she said.

Olympic chaos

 

Anti-China protests have marred the Olympic torch relay, causing chaos along the relay legs in London and Paris and causing organisers in other cities to change the route and beef up protection measures.

 

Meanwhile, Anbin Shi, an associate a professor from China's Tsinghua University, said rising European concerns were based more on Europe's elitist complex as China begins to rival the US as a rising giant.

 

"Europeans have traditionally looked down on Americans as being part of the New World", he said.

 

 

Concerns over Tibet appear to have added to
Europeans' fears about China's rise   [EPA]
Their phobias based on cultural superiority have now turned to China, which before its amazing economic achievements, they viewed as being "not civilised or modern".

 

Jin Cangrong, an international relations expert at the People's University in China, said decreasing Europe's economic competitiveness was fuelling anti-China sentiment.

 

The US already dominates high-level industry and now China is challenging Europe's leading position in mid-level industry, he said.

 

The global flow of Chinese investment filling holes left by the US' ongoing economic woes is likely to enhance European concern over China's growing international influence.

 

Investment fears

 

In February, the EU called for a global code of conduct for sovereign wealth funds, just days after China had attacked scrutiny of such funds as harmful to the global economy.

Asian and Middle Eastern funds have recently been eager buyers of Western assets such as stakes in key financial institutions, which became cheaper after the firms incurred huge losses from the US subprime mortgage default crisis.

The China Investment Corp is just one of a number of sovereign wealth funds, which exist not just in the Middle East but in Europe too.

But China's fund has drawn particular attention after announcing high profile deals and amid speculation that it could get more money from the country's $1.53 trillion foreign exchange reserve, the world's largest.