Chinese President Xi Jinping’s reckless “Wolf Warrior” political and military policies, along with China’s perceived mishandling of the Covid-19 outbreak, appear to have seriously dented the nation’s image internationally, according to a new survey.
Views of China have grown more negative in recent years across many advanced economies, and unfavorable opinion has soared over the past year, a new Pew Research Center survey of 14 countries shows.
Today, a majority in each of the surveyed countries has an unfavorable opinion of China.
And in Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United States, South Korea, Spain and Canada, negative views have reached their highest points since the Center began polling on this topic more than a decade ago.
The rise in unfavorable views comes amid widespread criticism over how China has handled the coronavirus pandemic.
Across the nations surveyed, a median of 61% say China has done a bad job dealing with the outbreak, while 37% believe the country has done a good job.
This is many more than say the same of the way the Covid-19 pandemic was handled by their own country (median of 27% bad job) or by international organizations like the World Health Organization (35%) or the European Union (37%).
Only the US receives more negative evaluations from the surveyed publics, with a median of 84% saying the US has handled the coronavirus outbreak poorly.
Perceptions of how well China has done handling the coronavirus pandemic also 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 than those who say it has done well to have an unfavorable view of the country — and the difference is at least 20 percentage points in every country surveyed.
Disapproval of how China has handled the Covid-19 pandemic is also tied to people’s confidence in President Xi Jinping.
A 14-country median of 78% say they have not too much or no confidence in Xi to do the right thing regarding world affairs, including at least seven-in-ten in every country surveyed — a stunning reversal of fortune.
In most countries, the percentage saying they have not too much or absolutely no confidence in him has grown by double digits since last year.
China’s growing maritime claims in the South China Sea have alienated several bordering nations, creating new opposing coalitions, and drawing the immediate attention of the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, who are all pondering avenues of action.
US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, stated in July 2020 that most of China’s claims to offshore resources in the South China Sea were unlawful.
Pompeo’s statement was followed by a speech from the US secretary of defense, Mark Esper, in which he accused China of “brazen disregard of international commitments.”
He said China had bullied nations around the Pacific, and that its aggressive tactics in the South China Sea obstructed other countries’ rights to fishing and natural resources.
A looming border clash with India over the Line of Control in the Ladakh region, is also reflected in President’s Xi’s contentious foreign policy, while China continues to bully Taiwan with brazen fighter jet incursions and sabre-rattling invasion drills on neighboring islands.
Critics of Xi have also been arrested and jailed in sham trials intended to quash dissent.
Ren Zhiqiang, an influential critic of the Chinese Communist party who suggested president Xi was a “clown” over his handling of the coronavirus outbreak, was investigated for “serious violations of discipline and the law.”
The retired property executive, who was a well-connected and vocal member of the ruling party, went missing last month after writing the critical essay.
Later, it was announced a court in Beijing found Ren “guilty of corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds.”
He is said to have “voluntarily” confessed to all charges and will not appeal against the decision.
President Xi’s bumbling actions aside, when it comes to perceptions of economic strength, China fares relatively well.
Outside of the US itself — where 52% of Americans say the US is the world’s leading economic power — only in Japan (53%) and South Korea (77%) do more people name the US than China.
But even while majorities in most countries note China’s economic strength relative to the US, this opinion does little to color attitude toward China more broadly.
In almost every country surveyed, people who name China as the top economic power and people who name the US are equally likely to have unfavorable views of China.
In other findings:
The increase in distrust for President Xi has been especially sharp in the last year with nine of 12 countries seeing a double-digit increase in the share who say they have no confidence in Xi. In Australia, for example, 54% had little or no confidence in Xi in 2019, and now 79% say the same, a 25-point increase.
In the US, 2020 is the first year in which more than half of young Americans expressed negative views toward China, with 56% of adults ages 18 to 29 having an unfavorable view of China.
The only country surveyed in which younger people hold more unfavorable views of China than their elders is South Korea (80% of adults aged 18-29 vs. 68% of adults aged 50 and older).
These are among the findings of a new Pew Research Center survey, conducted June 10 to Aug. 3, 2020, among 14,276 adults in 14 countries.