Polls conducted by a leading independent U.S. pollster last summer and this summer in 17 developed economies around the world show that the public’s perception of China continues to be generally negative, while confidence in Chinese leader Xi Jinping has fallen to a record low. At the same time, U.S. perceptions in the 17 developed economies have risen sharply since Joe Biden replaced Donald Trump as president.
A report released Wednesday (June 30) by the Washington-based Pew Research Center, based on two polls conducted last summer and this summer in 17 developed economies, found that few of those countries believe Beijing respects the personal freedoms of the Chinese people. In all, people in 15 of the 17 economies surveyed held this view. The number of people holding this view is at or near record highs in all places where the poll was conducted, and in Italy, South Korea, Greece, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, the number of people holding this view has increased significantly since 2018.
In the U.S., while data showing this perception trend is currently missing, 90% of the public still believes China does not respect individual liberty, with 93% of Republicans or Republican-leaning independents holding this view; another 87% of Democrats or Democrat-leaning independents hold this view.
At the same time, negative public perceptions of China are at or near record highs. The vast majority of those surveyed in these 17 economies have a generally negative view of China. For example, negative perceptions of China are at or above three-quarters in Japan, Sweden, Australia, South Korea and the United States. But the percentage of people with a negative view of China is virtually unchanged from 2020, as the number of people with a negative view of China has risen sharply in Australia, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Canada in the last year due to tensions in China’s relations with those countries and the widespread perception that China is not performing well in response to the new crown outbreak. For comparison, the number of Britons with a negative view of China has dropped slightly this year (by 11 percentage points).
But the Pew poll also reports that while negative views of China are widespread in many developed economies, people’s assessment of China’s performance in responding to the new crown epidemic has improved considerably. Today, about 49% of the public thinks China is doing well in responding to the epidemic, compared to 43% who held this view last year. Polls conducted last year and this summer in 12 of these economies show a significant increase in the number of people who approve of China’s response to the epidemic, with increases of at least 15 percent in Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands, among other places. And as with the polls taken in each of those summers, more people said China was responding well to the epidemic than said the same about the United States. In Japan, however, the response was the opposite, with more people saying the U.S. was responding well than those who said the same about China.
The poll also found that few people have confidence in Chinese President Xi Jinping to do the right thing in international affairs. In the vast majority of regions polled, the number of people with this negative view of Xi Jinping is at or near record highs. 16 of the 17 economies polled have no confidence in Xi Jinping. In the United States and Canada, the number of people who have no confidence in Xi Jinping is as high as 80%. In all but one of the 16 economies polled in Europe, 70% of respondents reported no confidence in Xi Jinping. And in France, Sweden and Germany, about half or more said they did not trust Xi at all.
Last year’s poll showed few people had confidence in Xi or Trump to “do the right thing” in international affairs. This year’s poll shows that while people’s confidence in Xi remains at or near record lows, their confidence in President Biden, who succeeded Trump, has increased. In each of the 17 economies polled, a majority of respondents said “Biden would do the right thing in international affairs.
Economies polled included Australia, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan and the United States.