Some of that decline can be attributed to a perceived lack of openness from China that may have contributed to the coronavirus crisis(Reuters)
Some of that decline can be attributed to a perceived lack of openness from China that may have contributed to the coronavirus crisis(Reuters)

Canadian favourability towards China ‘at a new low’: Report

According to a new public opinion poll, Canadian favourability towards China is “at a new low.”
Hindustan Times, Toronto | By Anirudh Bhattacharyya | Edited by: Prashasti Singh
UPDATED ON MAY 14, 2020 02:07 PM IST

The attitude of Canadians about China has taken a sharp nosedive over the last months with just 14 per cent feeling positive about the Asian nation, and much of this dislike is precipitated by strong distrust of Beijing over its transparency in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

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According to a new public opinion poll, Canadian favourability towards China is “at a new low.” The non-profit polling agency Angus Reid Institute or ARI noted, “As nations have responded to the pandemic, Canadian views towards China are in an apparent free-fall, as favourability of the nation hits a new low, dropping to 14 per cent – half of where it was in late 2019, and representing just a quarter of where favourability towards China stood in 2017.”

Some of that decline can be attributed to a perceived lack of openness from China that may have contributed to the coronavirus crisis. As the pollster said, “More than four-in-five (85%) Canadians say the Chinese government has not been honest about what has happened in its own country.”

These negative leanings towards China are also leading Canadians to be against the participation of the Chinese company Huawei in 5G infrastructure in Canada and overall against increasing trade with China. As the poll found: “If Canadians had their way, there would be real-world consequences to perceived malfeasance on the part of the Asian power. Just 11 per cent of Canadians say Canada should focus its trade efforts on China, down from 40 per cent in 2015. Further, four-in-five say Canada should bar Huawei from taking part in the building of new 5G infrastructure in this country.”

The fall in the percentage of Canadians with a positive view of China is perceptible. In 58 per cent could be considered pro-China, and that figure was at 48 per cent even in 2017. But 2018 proved a watershed year in relations between Canada and China.

As ARI stated, “Canadian opinion towards China has significantly declined since that government arrested and detained two Canadians in prison, in a tit-for-tat reaction to Canada’s arrest – and subsequent release on bail – of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.”

Compounding matters has been the alleged cover-up by China that led to Covid-19 going global. ARI said Canadians appear to share ‘concerns” such as those voiced by United States officials. As much as 85 per cent of those polled either strongly disagreed or disagreed with the statement that ‘The Chinese government has been transparent and honest about the Covid-19 situation in that country.’

Preference for strengthening the trade relation between Canada and China has also plummeted from 40 per cent supporting it in April 2015 to just 11 per cent in May 2020. And only 14 per cent are for allowing Huawei to play a role in building 5G mobile networks in Canada as against 21 per cent in November last year.

In effect, Canadians want the nature of the relationship to alter dramatically, as the poll stated, “Three-quarters (76%) of Canadians now say the most important aspect of their country’s relationship with China should be upholding human rights and the rule of law, not trade investment and opportunity. This represents a hardening of opinion over the last 18 months.”

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