Americans' view of China at a new low, survey finds

Strategic competition between countries, Beijing's handling of Covid-19 are hot issues

As strategic competition with Beijing and its conduct in handling the coronavirus pandemic become hot political issues in the United States, Americans' views of China have continued to sour, according to a new Pew Research Centre survey.

Today, 73 per cent of US adults say they have an unfavourable view of the country, up 26 percentage points since 2018, the Pew Research found.

The data was obtained from a nationally representative survey of 1,003 US adults conducted by telephone from June 16 to July 14.

"Since March alone, negative views of China have increased 7 points, and there is a widespread sense that China mishandled the initial outbreak and subsequent spread of Covid-19," it said.

Around two-thirds of Americans (64 per cent) say China has done a bad job of dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.

Seventy-eight per cent placed "a great deal or fair amount of the blame for the global spread of the coronavirus on the Chinese government's initial handling of the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan", the survey found.

Republicans are particularly critical; 73 per cent believe China's early handling of the pandemic contributed a great deal to its spread, compared with 38 per cent of Democrats who say the same, the report said.

Faith in China's President Xi Jinping to "do the right thing in world affairs" has also deteriorated.

As many as 77 per cent of those surveyed have little or no confidence in him, up six percentage points since March and 27 points since last year.

Also, around seven in 10 (68 per cent) said current economic ties between the superpowers are in bad shape. This is up 15 percentage points since May last year.

And around one in four describes China as an enemy of the US - almost double the share who said this when the question was last asked in 2012.

Older Americans have a more unfavourable view of China.

  • 64%

    Proportion of Americans who say China has done a bad job of dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.

 
 

"Americans (aged) 50 and older are substantially more negative (81 per cent) than those… under 30 (56 per cent)," Pew Research said.

And consistent with America's political divide, the survey also found that Republicans, and Republican-leaning independents, are significantly more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners to have a very unfavourable view of China, to criticise the Chinese government's role in the global pandemic, and to want to take a tougher policy approach to China.

While the divided perception of China has been a feature for 15 years, the gap is widening, the report noted.

"In the past four months, negative views towards China among Republicans have increased 11 percentage points," it said. "Over the same period of time, unfavourable views among Democrats have increased 6 points, resulting in a 15 point gap between the parties."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2020, with the headline 'Americans' view of China at a new low, survey finds'. Print Edition | Subscribe