July 18, 2013 at 9:44 AM ET
A majority of people across the globe believes China will eventually eclipse the United States as the world's leading economy, a new survey released on Thursday showed, although America is still widely seen as holding on to the top spot for now.
Since the 2008 financial crisis, perceptions of the economic power balance have changed, the report published by the Pew Research Center revealed. Some of America's closest allies now feel China is moving ahead.
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"Throughout much of Europe, the prevailing view is that China will ultimately eclipse the U.S. as the leading superpower. And this is the majority or plurality view in five of the seven Latin American nations polled," said analysts led by founding director of the Pew Research Center, Andrew Kohut.
"This trend has been especially apparent among some of America's closest allies in Western Europe. Today, for example, 53 percent in Britain say China is the leading economy; just 33 percent name the U.S." said Kohut.
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Roughly 6 in 10 Germans also back the view that China occupies the top position, while only 19 percent think the U.S. is the global economic leader.
The Chinese are also confident of their ascent to global economic power, with two-thirds believing their country has already or someday will replace the U.S. as the world's superpower.
"Some 47 percent say China has or will replace the U.S., and 47 percent say this will never happen. American opinion has shifted significantly since 2008, when only 36 percent said China would become the top global power and 54 percent believed it would never replace the U.S," he said.
However, despite this shifting perception of power, America's image as a positive and liberty-respecting nation remains strong. Across the countries surveyed a median of 70 percent say the American government respects the personal freedoms of its people. In contrast, few believe the Chinese government respects the freedom of its citizens.
"One of the major challenges for China's global image is that few believe the Chinese government respects the personal freedoms of its people. In only 11 countries in the survey do at least half hold this view. In contrast, majorities or pluralities in 37 of 39 nations believe the American government respects the individual freedoms of its citizens," said Kohut.
—By CNBC's Jenny Cosgrave: Follow her on Twitter @jenny_cosgrave