China’s growing influence on the world stage has not translated into favorable views of the country, according to a survey by a Washington-based think tank focusing on social issues and demographic trends, released as the East Asian nation marks the 70th anniversary of its founding.
The opinion of China throughout most of Western Europe, North America, and the Asia-Pacific region is largely negative, the Pew Research Center said in its latest Global Attitudes survey, released on Tuesday, which polled nearly 35,000 people in 32 countries on how they view the country from May 13 to Aug. 29 this year.
In Western Europe, aside from Greece, nations viewed China unfavorably, with pluralities or majorities ranging from 53 percent in Spain to 70 percent in Sweden, while the share of people who evaluate China positively dropped since last year by double digits in nearly half of the countries surveyed in the region.
According to Pew’s survey, 60 percent of Americans and 67 percent of Canadians view China unfavorably—the highest unfavorable opinion of China for both countries in the Center’s polling history and marking the largest year-on-year change in either nation—which was attributed in part to trade tensions, as well as human rights abuses.
China was also viewed negatively amongst most of its neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region, with 85 percent of Japanese saying they have an unfavorable opinion of the country. More than half of South Koreans, Australians, and Filipinos had similar opinions of China. These countries all have had trade, territorial or political influence disputes with China.
Pew said that the opinion of China fell across the Asia-Pacific region over the polling period and is now hovering at or near historic lows in each of the countries it surveyed—in particular in Indonesia, where opinion fell by 17 percentage points from a year earlier amid concerns over China’s treatment of ethnic Muslim minorities in its Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
Russians had the most positive view of China across all of the countries Pew surveyed, with 71 percent favorable, while a majority of Ukrainians—57 percent—also felt positively about the country.
More of the population in each of the Middle Eastern, Latin American and sub-Saharan African countries Pew polled held favorable views of China, from a low of 46 percent in South Africa to a high of 70 percent in Nigeria.
According to Pew, younger people held more positive views of China in most of the countries it surveyed, with adults ages 18-29 expressing more favorable opinions than those ages 50 and older in 20 nations.
Pew’s 2019 Global Attitudes survey followed one last year of 25 nations which found that in nearly all of the countries, a majority said China’s role in the world had increased over the past decade.