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Pew: China’s reputation plunges worldwide this year

China’s reputation has taken a plunge globally over coronavirus, says a new survey of 14 industrialized countries by the Pew Research Center.

“Negative views of China increased most in Australia, where 81% now say they see the country unfavorably, up 24 percentage points since last year. In the UK, around three-quarters now see the country in a negative light – up 19 points. And, in the U.S., negative views of China have increased nearly 20 percentage points since President Donald Trump took office, rising 13 points since just last year,” says Pew.

The report pegs China’s handling of the coronavirus as the main reason for the distrust of China, with the Pacific rim countries of Japan, South Korea and Australia — each of which successfully kept COVID numbers low — as most critical of China’s virus response. The three countries, significantly, also have previous experience dealing with virus outbreaks from China including SARS, Avian flu and swine flu.

China has acted belligerently towards suggestions that outside experts investigate the outbreak of coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, which has put them at odds with some countries.

“For example, in Australia – where efforts to investigate China’s role in the spread of COVID-19 have led to heated trade frictions – negative views of China have gone up 24 percentage points since 2019. This is also the largest year-on-year change in Australia since the question was first asked in 2008,” says the report.

But for other countries, such as the U.S., South Korea, the UK, the Netherlands, Canada and Sweden, the negative view of China has been ongoing for a few years.

In part, that stems from trade disagreements, but deteriorating human rights conditions are also to blame. As a result, people say they have little confidence in China’s strongman dictator Chairman Xi Jinping.

“The increase in distrust has been especially sharp in the last year; nine of 12 countries have seen 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 percentage point increase,” says Pew.  

European countries now are more likely to think that China is the world’s strongest economic power, with only Japan (53 percent) and South Korea (77 percent) ranking the U.S. ahead of China in economic strength according to the survey.

But the relative economic strength of China doesn’t affect the negative views that countries now have of China.

“A majority in each of the 14 countries surveyed has an unfavorable view of China. In most countries, around three-quarters or more see the country in a negative light. In Spain, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, the U.S., the UK, South Korea, Sweden and Australia, negative views have reached their highest level in the 12 or more years that Pew Research Center has been polling in these countries,” Pew concluded.

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