Average Chinese and American citizens seem much friendlier toward each other than do government and political leaders of both nations. That’s the news coming from a survey released by the Committee of 100, the New York City-based nonpartisan, nonprofit organization of prominent Chinese Americans.

So just what is the state of official relations between the United States and China? Complicated, yes. Schizophrenic, yes. Good one day, frosty the next. Meanwhile, political leaders in both Washington and Beijing get significant mileage out of criticizing each other’s nation.

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney charges China is “a cheater” on the world economy, making it a major part of his campaign as he hopes it will resonate with American voters. President Obama’s campaign has attacked Romney for supposedly outsourcing jobs to China, and the president announced a World Trade Organization case against China’s subsidies on auto parts exports. Visiting China in September, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received a serious snub when Vice President Xi Jinping, about to take over from President Hu Jintao, cancelled a meeting without notice.

Newspapers are filled with stories about trade antagonisms. Increasingly, China and the U.S. find themselves on opposite sides of critical situations in world hotspots, including Iran and Syria. And China has bluntly warned America to stay out of its escalating clash with other Asian nations over control of the seas in the region.

It’s not all bad, though. For example, U.S Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping both stated during the Secretary’s recent visit to Beijing that plans are underway to increase cooperation between the two nations’ militaries.

Now a survey from Committee of 100 suggests familiarity may, in the case of these two cultures, breed cordiality in a person-to-person context. It seems, the report concludes, that the citizens with the warmest, most positive views of the other country are those who have actually visited it and met its people.

“Interaction between the two peoples creates a better relationship,” said Charlie Woo, a member of Committee of 100. “For those [Americans] who have visited China, their impression is overwhelmingly more favorable, and for Chinese who come here, most have favorable opinions.”

The Committee’s 2012 U.S.-China Public Opinion Perceptions Survey shows that 55 percent of the general American public views China favorably, a three percent increase from 2007, the last time the survey was done. About 59 percent of Chinese people view America favorably.

There seems to be a disconnect between what average people think, however, and what American government and business leaders think the public believes. Business leaders and policymakers were polled separately on how the U.S. views China, and the results show that people in business or government have skewed views of the publics’ attitudes. Business leaders think only 20 percent of the U.S. public holds a favorable view of China. Policymakers say 17 percent. Both are substantially low estimations. read more…