Negative views of China soar in western countries, poll finds

Unfavourable views toward China have soared in the past year in the United States and many other advanced economies, according to a survey of 14 countries conducted by the US-based Pew Research Center.

The survey, conducted between June and August this year and released on Tuesday, found that a majority in each of the countries polled had an unfavourable opinion of China. In all, 14,276 adults were polled by telephone.

In Australia, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United States, South Korea, Spain and Canada, negative views reached their highest points since Pew began polling on the topic more than a decade ago.

The findings come against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, which began in China, and Donald Trump’s bid for re-election on 3 November, a campaign in which China has been a major foreign policy issue.

There has also been rising tension over trade and the role of Chinese technology companies such as Huawei in western economies. The UK and Australia are among those that have removed Huawei from threir 5G networks.

The Pew report said that across the nations surveyed, a median of 61% of respondents said China had done a bad job dealing with the outbreak, while 37% believed it had done a good job.

Only the United States received a more negative evaluation from those surveyed, with a median of 84% saying it had handled the outbreak poorly.

The report said perceptions of Beijing’s handling of the pandemic had coloured people’s overall views of China, with those who thought it had done a bad job much more likely to have an unfavorable view of the country.

The same applied to people’s confidence in Chinese president, Xi Jinping, with a median of 78% across the 14 countries saying they had “not too much or no confidence in Xi to do the right thing regarding world affairs”.

Even among those who rated China’s coronavirus outbreak response positively, no more than four in 10 said they trusted Xi, Pew said.

Despite concerns about Xi’s rise, the survey found that in most countries more had faith in him than in Trump. In Germany, 78% said they had no confidence in Xi – but 89% said the same of Trump.

When it came to perceptions of economic strength, China fared relatively well, and only in the United States, Japan and South Korea did more people consider America the world’s leading economic power.

The countries surveyed were Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and the United States.

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