Negative Views of China Persist Despite Covid Gains, Pew Finds

Negative views of China remain near record highs across the developed world, according to the latest Pew survey, as higher marks for Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus were offset by concerns about its human rights record.

Majorities in 15 of the 17 advanced economies surveyed this year by the Pew Research Center hold an unfavorable opinion of China, including record highs in Canada, Germany, South Korea and the U.S. Some 76% of Americans said they viewed the world’s most populous nation unfavorably in February, up three percentage points from last year.

Negative Views of China Persist Despite Covid Gains, Pew Finds

The percentage of people with a negative outlook on China was even higher in places such as Japan (88%), Sweden (80%), Australia (78%) and South Korea (77%) -- all countries that have had high-profile diplomatic disputes with Beijing in recent years. Only Greece and Singapore have mostly favorable views toward the country.

The report, which came hours before President Xi Jinping was expected to mark the Communist Party’s 100th anniversary in Beijing, shows the diplomatic challenge facing China as it attempts to assert greater influence globally. Last month, Xi urged Chinese officials to create a “trustworthy, lovable and respectable” image for the country, in a sign that Beijing may be looking to smooth its hard-edged diplomatic approach.

Questions about China’s early handling of the first known coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan helped fuel a dramatic decline in views toward the country. Pew’s surveys of almost 18,900 adults across the 17 markets show some improvement in that area, with a median of 49% saying China is doing a good job handling the pandemic.

Still, the report showed growing dissatisfaction with China’s human rights practices, as Beijing defended its labor programs in Xinjiang and imposed a national security law in Hong Kong. Chinese diplomats have hit out at countries that have criticized such actions, which Beijing views as its own internal affairs.

Majorities in all but one of the 17 have little or no confidence in the ability of Xi to handle world affairs. In Germany, France and Sweden, half or more say they have no confidence “at all” in Xi.

“Despite the widespread sense that China does not respect the personal freedoms of its people, publics are somewhat divided over what the appropriate response should be,” the report’s authors said.

The 17 advanced economies surveyed, which are dominated by American security allies, also indicated a stronger preference for the U.S. in the wake of President Joe Biden’s election last year. Majorities in more than half of the places said it was more important to have stronger economic ties with the U.S. than China, including Japan, Germany, France and the U.K.

The poll was done under the direction of Gallup and Langer Research Associates between February and May. The results have varying margins of error.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.