Australians’ Trust in China on World Stage Nosedives Amid Spat

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Australians’ trust in China to act in the world’s best interests has plummeted, highlighting their government’s challenge in mending a worsening diplomatic spat with its largest trading partner.

The annual Lowy Institute Poll released on Wednesday shows that 23% trust China to act responsibly in the world, down from 52% two years ago. Confidence in President Xi Jinping’s ability to handle global affairs has almost halved since 2018 to 22%.

Australians’ Trust in China on World Stage Nosedives Amid Spat

Still, the survey -- conducted in late March among 2,448 adults -- shows President Donald Trump isn’t a beneficiary of Australians’ increasing antipathy toward China. The American leader has the trust of only 30% of those polled to do the right thing in world affairs, even as 78% believe Australia’s key alliance with the U.S. is important to the nation’s security.

Australia has been increasingly assertive toward China this year, sparking Beijing’s wrath in April, by leading calls for an independent probe into the origins of the coronavirus.

Since then, Xi’s government has placed tariffs on Australia’s barley exports, banned beef from four of the nation’s meat plants, and warned its students they could be the subject of racist attacks while studying in the nation.

The survey shows Australians are concerned their nation is too dependent on trade with China, which accounts for around 36% of its exports. About 94% of respondents want the government to seek other markets.

With the pandemic exacerbating problems within Australia’s sluggish economy and pushing the nation toward its first recession in almost three decades, the survey showed optimism about the nation’s economic future sliding 13 points from the previous year to 52%.

And after a summer blighted by unprecedented bushfires that scientists believe were exacerbated by climate change, 59% agreed climate change is a critical threat to Australia’s vital interests in the next decade.

Still, the amount of Australians who saw global warming as a serious and pressing problem requiring urgent action fell 5 points from the year before to 56%.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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