World Politics

Negative views about China soared to record highs in many countries, Pew survey shows

Key Points
  • Negative views of China reached their "highest points" in nine of 14 countries polled since the research center began polling on this issue more than 10 years ago, the center said
  • Most of those surveyed in each of those countries had an unfavorable opinion of China, according to the survey, which polled more than 14,000 adults in the 14 countries.
  • Global confidence in Chinese President Xi Jinping has also been shaken as a result, the center said. 
Chinese President Xi Jinping, waves to residents who are quarantined at home and sends regards to them at a community in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, March 10, 2020.
Pang Xinglei | Xinhua via Getty

SINGAPORE — Negative opinions about China have soared among countries and reached a record high for most of the 14 countries polled, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

Negative views of China reached their "highest points" in 9 of those countries since the research center began polling on this issue more than 10 years ago, the center said. They were Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United States, South Korea, Spain and Canada, according to Pew.

The other five countries in the survey were Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy and Japan.

A majority in each of the surveyed countries had an unfavorable opinion of China, according to the survey, which polled 14,276 adults in 14 countries between June 10 to Aug. 3 this year.

Negative sentiment increased the most in Australia, where 81% of respondents said they viewed China unfavorably — a rise of 24 percentage points from last year. In the U.S., public opinion has also increasingly turned for the worst — up 13 points since last year, and nearly 20 points since U.S. President Donald Trump took office.

For both of those countries, relations with China have notably taken a turn for the worse of late.

Tensions between China and Australia have intensified in recent months, since the latter called for a global investigation into the origins of the coronavirus. The move angered Beijing, which imposed trade curbs on Australian imports.

The rise in unfavorable views comes amid widespread criticism over how China has handled the coronavirus pandemic.
Pew Research Center

In Washington, tensions with Beijing have steadily worsened, as the world's two largest countries spar over trade and technology, as well as how the coronavirus pandemic came about.

In the Pew survey, a majority — a median of 61% across the 14 countries — say that China has done a bad job in handling the coronavirus pandemic. The first coronavirus case was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan last December, and quickly spread to the rest of the world.

Today, more than 36 million people have been infected worldwide and at least 1 million people have been killed by Covid-19, data compiled by the Johns Hopkins University shows.

"The rise in unfavorable views comes amid widespread criticism over how China has handled the coronavirus pandemic," the survey report noted. "Perceptions of how well China has done handling the coronavirus pandemic color people's overall views of the country. Those who think China has done a bad job dealing with COVID-19 are much more likely to have an unfavorable view of the country."

The most negative reviews of China's Covid-19 response come from three nations in the Asia-Pacific region: Japan, South Korea and Australia. More than seven in ten of those surveyed in those countries say Beijing has done a "bad job" dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.

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Global confidence in Chinese President Xi Jinping has also been shaken as a result, the center said. The percentage of respondents saying they have "not too much" or "no" confidence in the Chinese leader grew double digits when compared to last year. This lack of confidence is at "historic highs" in every country — where trend data is available — except Japan and Spain, according to the survey.

"But, even as concerns about Xi rise, in most countries, more have faith in President Xi than in President Trump," the survey pointed out.

U.S. President Donald Trump has also been heavily criticized for his handling of the Covid-19 crisis in the U.S., after repeatedly downplaying the seriousness of the virus. As of Oct. 8, the U.S. has the most number of reported cases globally at over 7.55 million infected and accounts for more than 20% of global deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Trump himself has contracted the disease, but promptly returned to the White House despite still being infected.