Photo: AFP/Nicolas Asfouri
Australians lack confidence in Donald Trump and Xi Jinping. Photo: AFP/Nicolas Asfouri

Australians’ trust in China has collapsed and few think highly of United States President Donald Trump, according to a public opinion poll published Wednesday. The poll reflected the impact of rising confrontations between China and Australia.

The poll also showed a large majority of Australians valued the alliance with the United States, and while a slim majority trusted Washington to show leadership and act responsibly on the world stage, there was little faith in Donald Trump.

The survey from Sydney’s Lowy Institute showed the number of Australians who trust Beijing to act responsibly on the world stage fell from 52% in 2018 to a record low of 23% on Wednesday.

“Trust in our largest trading partner – China – has declined precipitously. Confidence in China’s leader Xi Jinping, has fallen even further,” the Lowy Institute reports says.

“Almost all Australians would like to see diversification in order to reduce our economic dependence on China, and most would support imposing travel and financial sanctions on Chinese officials associated with human rights abuses.”

China has become increasingly assertive under President Xi Jinping, as Beijing looks to translate its rising economic might into political, diplomatic and military power.

But the muscle-flexing has caused a series of disputes with regional neighbors – from border skirmishes with India to public diplomatic spats with Australia.

Recent months have seen China slap trade sanctions on Australian goods, sentence an Australian citizen to death and mock Canberra’s long-standing alliance with the United States.

Beijing had been angered by Australia’s push-back against technology giant Huawei, public complaints about Chinese spying and influence-peddling in the country and calls for an independent inquiry into the origins and management of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Trust in our largest trading partner – China – has declined precipitously,” Lowy director Michael Fullilove said in announcing the survey results.

“Confidence in China’s leader Xi Jinping, has fallen even further.”

A total of 94% of respondents said they would like to see Australia reduce economic dependence on China and 82% backed sanctions on Chinese officials linked to human rights abuses.

China accounts for about one-quarter of all Australian trade, according to official statistics – with Australian minerals helping build China’s heavy industry and fuel power generation.

As for the US, “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,” said Michael Fullilove, the Lowy Institute’s executive director.

“Only a small minority of the country support the President’s signature policies: increasing tariffs on imports, criticizing the defense spending of US allies, and taking America out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and the Paris climate agreement.

“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.

“Only one in three Australians (30%) express some or a lot of confidence in US President Donald Trump ‘to do the right thing regarding world affairs,’ a five-point increase from 2019.”

The poll has been conducted since 2005 and this year surveyed 2,448 adults across Australia.

With reporting by AFP