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Unfavourable views regarding China on the rise across developed economies, Pew study shows

Unfavourable view of China have been fuelled by its worsening bilateral relations with Japan over South China sea and its trade beef with Australia but US’ raising concerns over its treatment of minorities have also led to downgrading of how developed economies view the Asian economic powerhouse.
A recent study showed that developed economies in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific have developed highly unfavourable views regarding China. In this photo, An exile Tibetan activist wearing a mask in the likeness of Chinese president Xi Jinping sits in a tub filled with red fluid representing blood in Dharmsala.(AP )
Updated on Jul 03, 2021 12:12 AM IST
By Shankhyaneel Sarkar | Edited by Avik Roy, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

A study conducted by the Pew Research Center revealed that several developed countries showed a negative attitude towards China due to its treatment of minorities, the Chinese government's restrictions on freedoms and rights of its own people as well as Xi Jinping’s handling of international affairs.

The research was conducted by taking the opinions of 18,850 people from the people of Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the UK, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.

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Unfavourable views of China increased in several of these economically developed countries, according to the study. In Japan, Sweden, Australia, South Korea and the United States unfavourable views of China are currently at near historical highs, the study showed. Countries like Australia, Sweden, the UK and Canada saw an increase in negative attitudes towards China due to the bilateral tensions in 2020.

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Every four in 10 respondents from the US and Canada held a highly negative view of China. In the US and Canada, 76% and 73% of the respondents had an unfavourable view of China. Among European countries, at least 70% of the respondents from Sweden, Netherlands, Germany and more than 60% of the respondents from Belgium, France, the UK and Italy harboured adverse opinions toward China.

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China failed to impress in its own neighbourhood as more than 75% respondents from Japan, Australia and South Korea said they have an unfavourable view of China. Notably, 80% of the respondents from Japan harboured unfavourable views on China. At least roughly nine-in-ten surveyed see China negatively in Japan while two-thirds or more respondents in Australia, South Korea, Taiwan and New Zealand hold similar views.

Exceptions were seen in Singapore, where 64% of respondents see China favourably and while in Greece 52% of respondents have a favourable opinion towards China.

Personal freedom of Chinese citizens

Majority of these respondents believe that China does not respect the personal freedom of its own citizens. Barring Singapore, a large number of respondents feel that China does not respect the personal freedoms of its people.

At least nine out of 10 respondents from Sweden, South Korea, Australia, the Netherlands, the US and Japan said that China does not respect the personal freedoms of its people. Singapore remains an outlier here as well but even then 60% of the respondents feel China does not respect the personal freedoms.

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Economic ties with China

Post Covid-19 pandemic, as perceptions against China turned towards the negative, nations could not ignore China’s hold over the global economy. Respondent from Canada, European nations and surveyed countries from the Asia Pacific region said that they would prefer to hold closer economic ties with the US than with China.

However, a few respondents from Germany, France and New Zealand feel that ties with both nations are equally important.

Xi Jinping’s handling of international affairs

At least 80% of respondents in the US and 78% of the respondents in Canada have little or no confidence in Chinese president Xi Jinping’s handling of global affairs. Eight in 10 residents have expressed concern over Xi’s way of working. European respondents also shared a similar response with at least seven in 10 adults expressing lack of confidence in Xi Jinping. The point worth observing was that the number rose following the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the Asia Pacific, Japan, South Korea and Australia all the respondents displayed lack of confidence in Xi’s way of working. Japanese respondents share strongest distrust for Xi Jinping as 80% of the respondents view his handling of international affairs negatively. At least two-thirds or more feel the same in South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan.

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The highly negative views regarding the Chinese government comes in the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, its continuous efforts to alter the status quo in eastern Ladakh and the South China Sea and also over suspicions that China tried to meddle with the investigation into the origins of Covid-19.

Unfavourable view of China have been fuelled by its worsening bilateral relations with Japan over South China sea and its trade beef with Australia but US’ raising concerns over its treatment of minorities have also led to downgrading of how developed economies view the Asian economic powerhouse.

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