Poll respondents want a working relationship with Beijing . . .
The G7 summit ended earlier this week with harsh criticism by several Western governments of China. But recent public opinion polls in New Zealand and Australia indicate that despite a decline in positive sentiment towards Beijing, their populations continue to perceive China as an important economic and regional partner. The Asia New Zealand Foundation’s poll shows that for the first time a larger proportion of New Zealanders identify China as a threat (35%) than a friend (31%). Similarly, the University of Technology Sydney’s poll found that six in 10 Australians have become more negative towards China since the beginning of the pandemic. However, respondents in both countries acknowledge the need to make efforts to develop and maintain a working relationship with China.
Opportunity or a threat? . . .
One out of three New Zealanders associate the word “China” with “Asia,” and 73 per cent believe Asia will be the second-most important region for the country’s future. New Zealanders also identify China as a key relationship to develop, along with relationships with the U.S., India, Japan, and Australia. Similarly, approximately six out of 10 Australians see benefits in Australia-China relations and believe their government should continue to build strong relations with China. But these perceptions of opportunities are not without concerns. While 25 per cent of New Zealanders believe “the political and security situation in Asia” will have a negative impact on their country, a majority of Australians see China as a security threat and believe their government needs to take a tougher stance. The Australian public opinion poll comes at a time when the largest exporting state in the country is pushing back against the federal government’s aggressive China strategy.
Canadian perspectives . . .
Canadians share New Zealanders’ and Australians’ views when it comes to China. APF Canada’s 2020 National Opinion Poll indicated a significant dip in feelings towards China. Despite a majority of Canadians (83%) indicating that the Canadian government should stand up to China when their key national values are on the line, there is also an acknowledgement of China’s economic importance to Canada’s future. Like Australians, Canadians also expressed an interest in working together with China on regional and global issues, particularly public health and climate change. APF Canada will explore this complex terrain of foreign relations and balancing interests and values in its upcoming National Opinion Poll coming this summer.