In many countries, high negativity is a recent development . . .
According to a new survey by Pew Research, wealthy democracies’ views of China are the most negative they have been in nearly 20 years. The 14-country poll included Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the U.S., and nine western European countries. When Pew conducted the same poll in 2002, almost all had a more favourable than unfavourable view of China. But today, 12 of the countries surveyed had unfavourability rates higher than 70 per cent, and three – Australia, Japan, and Sweden – had unfavourability rates higher than 80 per cent. In Canada, there was a 50-point difference (73% unfavourable, 23% favourable).
COVID-19 and human rights . . .
One of the survey’s most striking results is how recent and dramatic the changes have been. In most countries, including Canada, views turned sharply negative only in the past couple of years. One reason, according to Pew’s analysis, is poor perceptions of China’s handling of the coronavirus, with a median of 61 per cent believing Beijing did a bad job of managing the crisis. But in many cases, favourability began declining before the COVID-19 outbreak, suggesting that other factors such as human rights issues are at work. On Tuesday, Germany, with the support of 38 other countries, expressed “grave concerns” over China’s forced detention of ethnic Uyghurs in Xinjiang Province and its imposition of the National Security Law on Hong Kong.
Sentiment sours on Xi . . .
Perhaps the survey’s most telling indication of China’s rapidly worsening image is views of its president, Xi Jinping. A median of 78 per cent say they do not have confidence in his leadership in world affairs – an assessment that has become markedly more pronounced in the past two to three years. This image has also been shaped by China’s “wolf warrior” diplomats, who have taken on a much more aggressive and confrontational tone in the countries where they serve. While this behaviour alienates international audiences, it resonates with Chinese nationalists, including Xi himself. Some observers speculate that Xi’s powers could be strengthened further at a Chinese Communist Party plenary session later this month.
- The Diplomat: Interpreting China’s ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomacy?
- The Guardian: Why is Xi Jinping pitting China against the world?
- Pew Research: Unfavorable views of China reach historic highs in many countries