Views on China in advanced economies sour over COVID-19

Poll shows surge in unfavourable perception of China, but US President Donald Trump also viewed with distrust.

A new survey finds more people in advanced economies have unfavourable views of China [File: Thomas Peter/Reuters]

Unfavourable views towards China have soared in the past year in many advanced economies, but nearly all agree China has handled the COVID-19 pandemic better than the United States, a survey of 14 countries conducted by the US-based Pew Research Center showed on Tuesday.

The survey, conducted from June 10 to August 3, 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 US, South Korea, Spain and Canada, negative views reached their highest points since Pew began polling on the topic more than 10 years ago.

The findings come against the backdrop of COVID-19, which first emerged in China late last year, before developing into a pandemic, and US President Donald Trump’s bid for re-election on November 3, a campaign in which China has been a significant foreign policy issue.

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

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

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

The same applied to people’s confidence in Chinese President Xi Jinping, with a median of 78 percent 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.

Still, even as concerns about Xi rise, the survey found that in most countries, people had more faith in him than they did in Trump. In Germany, 78 percent said they had no confidence in Xi, while 89 percent said the same of the US president.

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

Source: Reuters