A change of leadership appears to be yielding public relations dividends for the United States.
Positive views of the US among advanced economies are improving since President Joe Biden took office, while negative views of China and its President Xi Jinping – who has been in the job since 2013 – continue to hover near historic highs.
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That is the finding of the latest Pew Research Center survey of 17 advanced economies in Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific region.
Favourable views of the US rebounded from historic lows since Biden took up residency in the White House. In Germany, for example, only a quarter of people viewed the US positively last summer. Today, some 56 percent do.
In all but one of the 17 places surveyed, around half or more of people think well of the US today. The exception is New Zealand, where only 42 percent hold a favourable view of the US.
The opposite is true when it comes to China.
In only two of the places surveyed – Greece and Singapore – do half or more of people hold a favourable view of China. Large majorities in the rest of the countries surveyed hold broadly negative views of China, including 88 percent of people in Japan, 80 percent of people in the Netherlands and Sweden, and 78 percent of people in Australia.
Negative views of China have remained largely unchanged since last year. In some countries, though, they have continued to climb in the wake of bilateral tensions and perceptions that China handled the COVID-19 pandemic poorly, said Pew.
Biden vs Xi
One of the most notable year-over-year data shifts in the survey is the confidence people hold in each country’s respective leaders.
Last year, confidence in Xi and then US President Donald Trump to “do the right thing regarding world affairs” was in the basement among the advanced economies surveyed. Across much of western Europe, more people had confidence in Xi than Trump.
A year on, confidence in Xi remains at or near historic lows, with all but one of the publics surveyed saying they have little or no confidence in him.
Biden meanwhile has delivered a bounce for views of the US president.
The majority of people in every public surveyed say they have confidence in Biden to do the right thing when it comes to global affairs. Sweden alone saw a 70 percentage-point increase in confidence for the US president since last year.
Handling of pandemic and economic ties
One area where China bests the US in public perceptions is in its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Across all the publics surveyed, a median of 49 percent say China has done “a good job dealing with the coronavirus outbreak”, compared to 37 percent for the US.
The only place surveyed that thinks Washington has done a better job than Beijing is Japan.
But China continues to trail the US substantially when it comes to the importance of strong economic ties.
Around half or more in most places surveyed say it “more important for their nation to have strong economic ties” with the US than China. Only Singapore and New Zealand bucked that trend.