NEW DELHI: The opinion of China in the US and other advanced economies has “turned precipitously more negative” since President Xi Jinping took office in 2013 and global attitudes towards the Chinese leader have become increasingly negative in recent years, according to a new analysis by Pew Research Center.
The data essay depicting global public opinion of China and Xi, released on Wednesday ahead of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC)’s 20th national congress next month, focuses on five topics – China’s military power and influence, its human rights policies, the country’s economy, Covid-19 and the Chinese people.
In the spring of 2014, about a year after Xi Jinping took office, attitudes were “already quite negative”, with people in most places surveyed by Pew feeling more negatively than positively about the new president. “Views of the Chinese president turned more negative between 2019 and 2020. By 2022, majorities in all but two advanced economies surveyed had little to no confidence in his approach to world affairs,” Pew said.
The opinion of China in the US and other advanced economies has “turned precipitously more negative” since Xi’s rise to power in 2013, it said. “In the US, the sense that China has handled Covid-19 poorly and is at fault for the virus’s spread certainly is related to negative opinions of the superpower, but is not the only factor driving attitudes,” it added.
The analysis, based on 20 years’ worth of polling by the Pew Research Center, found that multiple factors have affected views of China over time.
Negative views of China were already rising in the US prior to the pandemic, and this was also true in other countries, including some of China’s neighbours, such as South Korea, Japan and Australia.
Global unfavourable views of China occur amid concerns about Beijing’s policies on human rights, its military power and economic factors such as trade. “Much like opinion of China, global attitudes toward Xi have become increasingly negative in recent years,” Pew said.
Xi is widely expected to get endorsed for an unprecedented third term as president at the CPC’s 20th national congress in October, cementing his already formidable grip on power.
Pew Research Center has been examining global public opinion of China since 2002, and has collected data in more than 60 countries during this time. As the center was unable to survey most emerging economies during the Covid-19 outbreak, the analysis focuses more on data from advanced economies surveyed between 2020 and 2022.
Among the key findings of the analysis are that there is a “widespread and long-held sense that China’s power and influence on the world stage is growing”, widespread concerns remain about China’s military, global perception that China does not respect human rights, is at or near historic highs in many places studied in 2021
As of 2022, a median of 66% across 19 countries say China’s influence around the world has recently been getting stronger, including seven-in-ten or more in Australia, Italy, Israel, Greece and the Netherlands. Alongside its growing influence, there is a sense that China is a “growing threat”.
A median of 72% across 19 countries surveyed described China’s military power as a “serious problem”, including 37% that call it a “very serious problem” for their country.
In 2022, when asked which issue was a very serious problem for their own country, more respondents named China’s policies on human rights than its military power, economic competition or even involvement in politics in their own country.
However, views of the Chinese economy and how it relates to different countries varied. Economic competition from China was seen as a serious problem among advanced economies, and people in South Korea, Japan, the US and Australia were particularly concerned. But some have not always considered China’s economic growth to be bad for their countries, and about half in North America and roughly half or more in Australia, Japan and South Korea said in 2019 that China’s growing economy was good for their respective countries.
Mixed feelings about China’s growing economy were accompanied by a preference for closer economic ties with the US than with China. In 2021, most among the advanced economies surveyed saw more value in having close economic ties with the US.