Asia Politics

Australians' trust in China falls to record low, nationwide poll shows

Key Points
  • Only 23% of Australians surveyed said they "trust" China "somewhat or a lot to act responsibly in the world." That's  compared to 52% in the same poll conducted in 2018.
  • Tensions between China and Australia have intensified in recent months, since the latter called for a global investigation into the origins of the coronavirus.
  • According to the poll, most Australians say that the country should reduce its economic reliance on China.
Chinese tourists take photographs in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Sydney, Australia, on Monday, Dec. 24, 2012.
Brendon Thorne | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Australians' trust in China has dropped to a record low amid the coronavirus crisis, according to an annual nationwide poll conducted by think tank, Lowy Institute.

Only 23% of Australians surveyed said they "trust" China "somewhat or a lot to act responsibly in the world," compared to 52% in the same poll conducted in 2018.

The poll, which was conducted in March this year, surveyed over 2,400 Australians.

More than half the respondents said Australia's relationship with the U.S. is more important than China.

Tensions between China and Australia have intensified in recent months, since the latter called for a global investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, which first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The move has angered Beijing, which has targeted Australian products.

Our ties to China are being tested by an increasingly assertive party-state. Our great ally, the United States, was already self-isolating under the presidency of Donald Trump. Now, in the middle of the pandemic, it looks seriously unwell.
The Lowy Institute

Since then, China has hit back by suspending Australian beef imports, and slapping Australian barley with huge tariffs.

It also advised its citizens to stop traveling to Australia and warned its students against choosing the country for overseas education, citing racial discrimination.

China is Australia's largest trading partner, buying up a third of everything that Australia exports, including agricultural and commodities such as iron ore, and wine.

U.S. vs China

According to the poll, most Australians say the country should reduce its reliance on China.

Even though more than half see China as an "economic partner" rather than a "security threat," an overwhelming majority (94%) say the government should find other markets so that Australia can "reduce our economic dependence on China," the Lowy Institute report said.

"Our ties to China are being tested by an increasingly assertive party-state," authors of the Lowy report said. "Our great ally, the United States, was already self-isolating under the presidency of Donald Trump. Now, in the middle of the pandemic, it looks seriously unwell."

"Most Australians continue to believe that our alliance with the United States is important to our security. But trust in the United States has stagnated, and few Australians have confidence in President Trump," the institute added.

Despite their stated misgivings on China, more Australians (31%) say Beijing has handled the coronavirus outbreak "well," — compared to only 10% who said the same of Washington.