Global public opinion about China has plummeted consistently since Xi took office in 2013 according to a new report released by the Pew Research Center on September 28, 2022, just ahead of the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party on October 16 where faithful delegates are expected to rubber stamp an unprecedented third term in power for Xi Jinping. The results presented in the report are drawn from representative surveys conducted over the past 20 years in more than 60 countries.
According to the report, “multiple factors have affected views of China over time. In the U.S., 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. Rather, negative views of China were already rising prior to the pandemic. The same is true in other countries, including some of China’s neighbors, like South Korea, Japan and Australia.”
The report noted that negative views of China are at historic high in South Korea, Japan, and Australia. China’s economic retribution, bi-lateral tensions, China’s failure to curb Covid-19, tensions in the East China Sea, and China’s interference in domestic politics were cited as contributing factors in the above countries. The same pattern was also identified as holding true for Canada, Sweden, and most of the advanced countries. The negative trend was even seen in emerging economies such as India, Turkey, and Philippines.
Roughly half or more in South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Australia and the U.S. said China’s power and influence was a major threat to their country in 2018. The share of Americans who said limiting China’s power and influence should be a top priority grew from 32% in 2018 to 48% in 2021. In South Korea and Australia, more than half say China’s involvement in their domestic politics is a very serious problem and nearly half say the same in the U.S. The report identified widespread concerns about China’s military. As of 2022, a median of 72% across 19 countries surveyed describe China’s military power as a serious problem, including 37% that call it a very serious problem for their country.
The report found Xi Jinping’s repressive policies in Hong Kong, East Turkestan, Tibet; his aggressive claim in the China Sea; centralisation of power and removal of term limit for presidency had tarnished his reputation. The majority of advanced countries in the report had little to no confidence in Xi’s approach to world affairs.
In 10 of the 19 countries surveyed, around half or more described China’s policies on Human Rights as a very serious problem for their country. They placed Human Rights issues above China’s military power, economic competition, and involvement in politics in their own country. The survey conducted in 2022 revealed that Australia, Japan, and the majority in North America and Europe held the view that promoting Human Rights in China was important even if it harms economic relations with China.