According to the Pew Research Poll 2020, negative impressions about China have reached a historic high in most Western countries including the UK, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, Canada and the USA. The polling had begun ten years ago, but China had never been in a more unfavourable position than it is in 2020.
In the UK, almost three-quarters of the population (raising the number by 19%) see China in a negative light. In the USA, negative views of China had already increased since 20% ever since Trump assumed office. The numbers shot up by another 13% in 2020. This rise in numbers in the US is a concern because much of it is a result of Xenophobic and white-supremacist propaganda.
The Pew Research Poll contacted 14,276 adults across 14 countries to know of their opinion in several issues, such as what their view of China was, how commendable China’s actions during the pandemic was, their views on President Xi Jinping, etc.
The rise in the number of unfavourable opinions about China is directly an outcome of the Covid-19 pandemic. Across the 14 countries surveyed, 61% of the people think that China handled the Covid-19 outbreak poorly.
In most cases, this number is higher than those who think that their own country, or the WHO, has mismanaged the pandemic. The only exception is the USA, where 84% of the population is under the impression that their nation has done a poor job when it came to preventing the Covid-19 outbreak.
Disapproval of China’s policies in handling the Covid-19 pandemic has affected people’s opinions about Chinese President Xi Jinping as well. The disapproval rates have risen by double digits in every country. President Xi is in an unfavourable position in all countries surveyed apart from Japan and Spain. A median of 70% of the people in the Netherlands believes that President Xi is a poor leader when it comes to making an important decision. Only 50% of the number of people surveyed last year disapproved of him. Xi Jinping’s approval rate in the Western world is lower than that of Boris Johnson, Vladimir Putin, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel.
Even as Xi’s disapproval rate continues to soar up, he is in a considerably better position than Trump. Trump’s reputation has massively suffered from the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in the USA. Calling the Covid-19 a hoax has had a terrible impact on most people.
The death of George Floyd and the protests that followed further worsened his reputation. In Germany, 78% of the people surveyed have a poor opinion of Xi Jinping. In Trump’s case, the number is 89%. The fact that following the presidential debate of 2020 with Joe Biden, Trump had suffered from the Coronavirus himself has worsened the global opinion about his capabilities.
The pandemic has led to economists predicting contractions for many major economies which include the likes of the UK, US and Japan. The Chinese economy, on the other hand, is expected to maintain a fairly modest but positive growth. This has coloured the opinions of the global populace.
If we take the example of Italy, 82% of the people are expected to have an unfavourable opinion of China which is double the percentage (41%) who believe China did a poor job handling the pandemic.
But despite this highly unpopular opinion, the 14 countries across which the survey took place have shown that a median of 48% identifies China as the world’s leading economic power, closely followed by the US which has managed to garner a median of 35%. Japan and a few other European countries make up the total percentile but the numbers are negligible.
As we try to formulate some sort of understanding from these surveys, one fact is evident, people no longer believe in world leaders.
While Putin is the only exception to this norm with a slightly higher acceptance median, we have to take into account the fact that Putin does not openly showcase his powers with instigating comments on social media. Neither does Xi, but the fact that the entire pandemic which has shaken the world economy and left millions without a viable source of income, has not gone down well with the global populace.
While the European leaders like Johnson and Merkel have almost twice the number of votes than Xi not only highlights the incompetence of the Chinese Premiere but also the xenophobic mindset of the West in general. The only person who has transcended the almost unsurpassable xenophobic hatred is Trump and with obvious reasons.
Economic acceptance of China is understandable considering the capitalising that they have done in this pandemic. And with an obscene amount of people believing in the conspiracy theories of the virus being a biological weapon, have aided in China attaining economic supremacy in people’s minds.
With the US, South Korea and Japan being the only nations who voted in favour of the US being the better economic power, another fact is discernible. The people who are in close contact with any economy inevitably become disillusioned with its flaws and vote for the other. The same can be said about the European nations voting for China but having extensive trade connections with the US.
Citizens who voted that China had handled the Covid-19 outbreak successfully were more likely to vote in favour of Xi Jinping. Still, the figure is no more than four-in-one.
The many different trade and aid policies being pursued by China globally have been heavily criticised but can developing countries become more independent or will China’s policy reform?