* Majority of U.S. participants polled believe U.S. bonds safe * Chinese business, opinion leaders, and public, doubt safety of U.S. bonds By Ellen Freilich NEW YORK, April 27 (Reuters) - Three-quarters of U.S. business and opinion leaders recently surveyed believe investments between the United States and China will boost Chinese purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds, but U.S. and Chinese respondents sharply diverged over whether U.S. Treasury bonds were safe investments. In the United States, 89 percent of policymakers, 89 percent of business leaders, 56 percent of "opinion leaders" and 56 percent of the general public thought U.S. Treasury bonds were a safe investment, the survey found. But in China, which has invested heavily in U.S. Treasury bonds, only 12.8 percent of the general public, 28.7 percent of opinion leaders and 36.4 percent of Chinese business leaders thought U.S. Treasury bonds were a safe investment. The perceptions about U.S. Treasury bonds were revealed in a comprehensive poll about attitudes toward China and the United States conducted by Harris Interactive in the United States and Horizon Research Consultancy Group in China. The survey, comparing views of American and Chinese business and opinion leaders and members of the public, was sponsored by the Committee of 100, a group of Chinese Americans prominent in business, government, academia and the arts. From the Chinese perspective, the perception that U.S. Treasury bonds are not a safe investment derives from the financial crisis of 2008, said Dominic Ng, chairman of the Committee of 100 and chairman and chief executive officer of Los Angeles-based East West Bank. "China looked up to the United States as being the smartest in the world in terms of understanding how to create a free market," Ng said. "And because China also has a very strong balance sheet, it put a lot of its surplus into U.S. dollars because they felt it was the safest investment." But witnessing the financial turmoil of 2008 took a toll on that confidence. "A major liquidity crisis, job losses and foreclosures created some disillusion among the Chinese public and opinion leaders because this western free market model they had looked up to really didn't work as well as they thought," Ng said. "The western free market model they'd been lectured about for years blew up in front of their eyes." With China's substantial investment in U.S. Treasury securities, the 2008 crisis "created unease," Ng said, That discomfort persists even though U.S. Treasuries rallied strongly during the crisis and afterward. "Most Chinese, from opinion leaders to the general public, do not understand the intricacy about why Treasuries are so safe because they do not have all the information about how the U.S. economy works," Ng said. In reality, accommodative monetary policy in a non-inflationary environment fed a rally in U.S. Treasuries. "People in China worried, but actually came out OK," Ng said. "It's all perception. China needs to keep a substantial amount of foreign reserves and the U.S. dollar relatively is the better choice." The English-language survey was conducted in the United States between December 14, 2011 and January 31, 2012. A total of 1,400 interviews were completed, including 1,000 among the general adult population and 400 across various business elites, opinion leaders, think tank executives and congressional staffers. The Chinese-language survey was conducted in China between December 12, 2011 and January 16, 2012. A total of 4,153 interviews were completed, including 3,775 among the adult population and 378 across various business elites and opinion leaders.