The Pew Research Center published the results of a survey of advanced countries which found views of China have become far less favorable thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, for many of the countries surveyed including the Unites States, the unfavorable view of China is the highest ever recorded:
Views of China have grown more negative in recent years across many advanced economies, and unfavorable opinion has soared over the past year, a new 14-country Pew Research Center survey shows. Today, a majority in each of the surveyed countries has an unfavorable opinion of China. And in Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United States, South Korea, Spain and Canada, negative views have reached their highest points since the Center began polling on this topic more than a decade ago.
Negative views of China increased most in Australia, where 81% now say see the country unfavorably, up 24 percentage points since last year. In the UK, around three-quarters now see the country in a negative light – up 19 points. And, in the U.S., negative views of China have increased nearly 20 percentage points since President Donald Trump took office, rising 13 points since just last year.
This chart really sums up the trend, though a couple of nations included in the most recent survey aren’t included:
You may recall that after the initial outbreak in China there was a concerted effort by the Chinese to portray themselves as a hero in the fight against the coronavirus. That apparently hasn’t worked at all, not even in nations like Italy where China sent help and supplies.
The same respondents who had negative views of China also felt similarly of President Xi Jinping:
Across the 14 countries surveyed, a median of 78% say they have no confidence in Chinese President Xi to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs, with at least seven-in-ten in every country saying they lack confidence in Xi. Only a median of 19% express any trust.
Pew connects all of this negativity to the coronavirus which is obviously the main driver but I wonder to what degree China’s takeover of Hong Kong and additional information about its re-education camps in Xinjiang also play a role here. There are lots of good reasons not to like China right now.
The bad news from a U.S. perspective is that while about 60% of respondents to the poll felt China did a bad job handling the coronavirus, the numbers were even worse for the United States, with 84% saying the U.S. did a bad job. And similarly, views of President Trump were even less favorable than views of President Xi in many countries. In most of the countries surveyed both China and the U.S. had favorability below 50%. Still, the U.S. is still viewed more favorably than China in most places:
Finally, it’s worth noting that the nations surveyed don’t necessarily view the U.S. more favorably than China simply because of our strong economy. In fact, Pew found that European nations said China’s economy was stronger than the U.S. economy:
In every European country surveyed, a plurality or majority say China is the top economy in the world. Only in South Korea, Japan and the U.S. itself do more people name the U.S. Across Europe, these ratings are largely unchanged since 2019 despite the major changes in the global economy brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Western Europeans have generally considered China’s economy to be the strongest worldwide in recent years, even while people in Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East – none of which were surveyed this year – have often named the U.S.
So Europeans generally view the U.S. slightly more favorably than China despite believing our Coronavirus response was worse and despite many of them believing China has the stronger economy. But in some cases (Germany, Belgium) the difference is pretty slight.