Despite recent overtures to position itself as a promoter of international peace, China’s image in Europe, North America, and parts of Asia remains largely negative. This is a key finding from a new report by nonpartisan U.S. think-tank Pew Research, based on public opinion surveys in 24 countries. Those who were most unfavourable were Australia (87%%), Japan (87%), Sweden (85%), the U.S. (83%), and Canada (79%).
The news is better for Beijing among key middle-income countries in Africa and Latin America; unfavourability was lowest in Nigeria (15%), followed by Kenya (23%). In Asia, Indonesians’ unfavourability toward China was also low, at 25 per cent, but in India, it was higher, at 67 per cent.
Mixed views of foreign policy
The countries also diverged on questions about foreign policy. When asked whether they thought China took account of other countries’ interests, large majorities in Sweden (93%), the Netherlands (89%), Australia (87%), South Korea (87%, and Japan (85%) answered “not at all” or “not too much.” The number was also high among Canadians (77%). India showed the steepest drop; 58 per cent felt that China’s foreign policy did not take account of other countries’ interests – down 30 points since 2013.
In contrast, 71 per cent of Nigerians felt that China did take other countries’ interests into account either “a fair amount” or “a great deal.” That was followed by Kenya (64%), South Africa (56%), and Indonesia (53%).
Middle-income countries welcome Chinese economic power
Views on China’s economic power are more complicated. Majorities in the six African or Latin American countries – all of which consider the U.S. to be the leading economic power – view China’s economic power as either positive or in neutral terms. In contrast, in Australia, 50 per cent of the public sees China as the leading economic power (as opposed to 39% who chose the U.S.), but a majority – 65 per cent – see China leading as “more of a bad thing” than a good thing.