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World

Worsening global perception of China in COVID-19 aftermath, claims report

  • According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, public opinion pertaining to China has significantly worsened over the past year.
07 Oct 2020

According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, despite the fact that the Chinese government has often operated in a shroud of secrecy, and often considered to be woefully undemocratic in nature, public opinion pertaining to China has significantly worsened over the past year.

The study surveyed across a sample of 14 countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Sweden, South Korea, Spain and Canada - and it can be observed that a majority in each of the surveyed countries has a negative opinion about China. In Australia, a whopping 81 percent view the country unfavourably, in the United Kingdom three-quarters are critical of the regime, and in the United States negative opinion about China surged after President Trump was voted into office, especially in the midst of a prolonged trade dispute and the Trump Administration’s “Chinese virus” rhetoric during the pandemic.

However, the more recurring source of this negative sentiment could be traced back to China’s perceived handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a median of 61% of the surveyed nations under the impression that China was not only culpable for the outbreak of the virus (exacerbated by racist sinophobic conspiracy theories), but also did a “bad job in dealing with the outbreak”. Interestingly, this figure is predominantly higher than what other countries feel about their own domestic governments and their handling of the virus, with only the United States getting a significantly worse evaluation, with 84 percent of the respondents stating that the outbreak was managed poorly by the Trump Administration.

Furthermore, the overwhelming disapproval of China’s management of the pandemic has in turn influenced the perception of the Chinese government’s competence, and the confidence in President Xi Jinping - with 78 percent of the respondents saying that they have little to no confidence in him “doing the right thing in world affairs”. However, Jinping’s abysmal approval ratings internationally are still faring noticeably better than that of President Trump, yet continued to lag behind other notable world leaders such as Chancellor Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, and even Boris Johnson.

China’s meteoric rise in the aftermath of the Cold War, especially after Deng Xioping’s ascendancy to power, has largely been centered around its unprecedented economic growth, as it is now poised to replace the United States as the world’s largest economy in the foreseeable future. The study shows that when it comes to perceptions of economic strength in the international community, a majority of the respondents stated that China is the world’s leading economic power - with only Japan (53%), the United States (52%), and South Korea (77%) responding in favour of the latter.

While criticism against the Chinese government in the international community remains commonplace, especially in terms of the nature of the regime and their undemocratic practices both domestically and internationally, this criticism is unlikely to make its way to the country’s populace, with President Xi Jinping’s meticulously crafted public image guarded behind a “Great Firewall” and state surveillance that allows little to no dissent.