Survey finds negativity over China deepens

Views of China, already trending negative in recent years, have plunged over the past year across many advanced economies, a new 14-country Pew Research Centre survey shows.

Negative views of China increased most in Australia, where 81 per cent now see the country unfavourably, up 24 percentage points since last year. This is in line with a plunge in the China-Australia relationship.

In Britain, around three-quarters of those polled now see China in a negative light - up 19 points from last year.

And in the United States, negative views of China have risen nearly 20 percentage points since President Donald Trump took office, an increase of 13 points from just last year.

In Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, South Korea, Spain and Canada, negative views have reached their highest points since the centre began polling on this topic more than a decade ago, Pew Research said.

The survey was conducted between June 10 and Aug 3, and involved 14,276 respondents. The only Asian countries covered were South Korea and Japan.

The Covid-19 pandemic was a key driver of the negative sentiment.

"Across the 14 nations surveyed, a median of 61 per cent say China has done a bad job dealing with the outbreak," Pew Research found.

"This is many more than say the same of the way the Covid-19 pandemic was handled by their own country or by international organisations like the World Health Organisation or the European Union."

"Only the US receives more negative evaluations from the surveyed publics, with a median of 84 per cent saying the US has handled the coronavirus outbreak poorly," Pew Research said.

Disapproval of how China has handled the Covid-19 pandemic also coloured people's confidence in Chinese President Xi Jinping.

At least seven in 10 people in every country surveyed, or a median of 78 per cent across the 14 countries, say they have not too much or no confidence in him to do the right thing regarding world affairs, Pew Research said.

"This lack of confidence in (President) Xi is at historic highs in every country for which trend data is available except Japan and Spain," it said.

"In most countries, the per cent saying they have not too much or no confidence in him has grown by double digits since last year."

In the Netherlands, for instance, where around half of respondents distrusted Mr Xi last year, today 70 per cent distrust him.

Yet more have faith in Mr Xi than in President Donald Trump. In Germany, 78 per cent say they have no confidence in Mr Xi, but 89 per cent say the same of Mr Trump.

Mr Xi's global image may be somewhat better than Mr Trump's, but is nonetheless "significantly worse" than that of several of the other world leaders asked about, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

However, when it comes to perceptions of economic strength, China fares better.

People in most countries polled, particularly in Europe, see China as the world's top economy.

"Outside of the US itself - where 52 per cent of Americans say the US is the world's leading economic power - only in Japan (53 per cent) and South Korea (77 per cent) do more name the US than China," the survey found.

Deepening the anti-China trend in the US, this is the first year in which more than half of young Americans expressed negative views towards China.

The only country surveyed in which younger people hold more unfavourable views of China than their elders is South Korea.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 07, 2020, with the headline 'Survey finds negativity over China deepens'. Print Edition | Subscribe