Negative views of China increase worldwide despite expanding CCP propaganda campaigns
Majorities of the populace in 15 of 17 developed nations around the world continue to harbor negative opinions about China, according to a report by the Pew Research Center released in late June 2021.
“Large majorities in most of the advanced economies surveyed have broadly negative views of China,” Pew found in a survey of 18,850 people across Europe, the Indo-Pacific and North America.
Moreover, Pew reported that negative perceptions of China are at or near historic highs in nearly every country surveyed despite the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) propaganda efforts increasing in intensity and scope, analysts said.
Negative views rose significantly since 2018 in Australia, Canada, Greece, Italy, South Korea and the United Kingdom, and record highs were reported in Canada, Germany, South Korea and the United States, where negative opinions increased 3 percentage points from 2020, the Pew report said.
About 88% of respondents in Japan, 80% in Sweden, 78% in Australia, 77% in South Korea, 76% in the U.S. and 73% in Canada hold negative opinions of China, the report said. More than two-thirds of respondents in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Taiwan hold mostly negative views of China as well.
Meanwhile, the CCP appears to be continuing to increase funding for its assorted propaganda campaigns globally, which include agencies and organizations ranging from the Confucius Institutes and United Front Work Department to other efforts to influence overseas Chinese, analysts said. Although its actual overall budget for foreign-directed propaganda is unknown, analysts estimate it runs more than U.S. $10 billion annually. For example, Chinese state media organizations spent U.S. $64 million on campaigns that target the U.S. in 2020, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.Analysts point to the CCP’s mistreatment of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities, which includes mass internment in reeducation camps and persecution, its authoritarian crackdown on Hong Kong and its efforts to cover up the origins of the coronavirus pandemic in Wuhan as contributors to the increasingly negative opinions worldwide.
Large majorities, on average 88%, in all countries surveyed, and 60% in Singapore, “believe that the Chinese government does not respect the personal freedom of Chinese people,” the report said. Such sentiments are also at an all-time high.
“All the countries in the free world are well aware that, far from maintaining any so-called international order, the CCP is creating a new set of ‘international norms’ of its own that cares nothing for human rights and doesn’t respect freedom or democracy,” Joey Siu, a democracy activist and consultant for the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China told Radio Free Asia.
“But it seems that however much the CCP tries to package this, it’s not changing China’s image [for the better] internationally very much,” Siu said.
What is more, opinions about the CCP’s treatment of the Chinese people and views of China are closely correlated, the report said. “In publics where more people think China does not respect its citizenry, unfavorable views of the country are higher.”
Education and age also factor into perceptions. “In about half of the publics surveyed, those with higher levels of education are more likely to say China does not respect the personal freedoms of its people than those with lower levels of education,” the report said. “The difference is largest in Singapore, where 69% of those with a postsecondary degree or above say China does not respect the personal freedoms of its people compared with 51% of those with less schooling.”
“Older people are more likely than younger ones to criticize China’s treatment of its people in seven nations surveyed. In Singapore and Taiwan, however, the pattern is reversed, wherein younger people are more critical of China,” the report said.
Public perception of CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping has also declined, as confidence in him “remains at or near historic lows in most places surveyed,” the report found.
“In all but one of the 17 publics surveyed, majorities say they have little or no confidence in him — including half or more in Australia, France, Sweden and Canada who say they have no confidence in him at all.” Singapore was the outlier with only 30% of survey participants expressing no confidence in Xi to do the right thing in world affairs.
Meanwhile, opinions of the U.S. and its leadership improved in the past year. About 50% or more of the surveyed populations in 16 countries have a favorable opinion of the U.S. and confidence in President Joe Biden, the report said. (Pictured: A banner is displayed to support the alliance between South Korea and the United States near the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, in May 2021. The sign at top reads: “Anti-China and Pro-the U.S.”)
Pew also found that majorities in most of the surveyed countries say it is more important for their nations to have strong economic ties with the U.S. than with China. “In nations where this question has been asked more than once — Australia, Canada, Japan and South Korea — the importance placed on ties with the U.S. has also grown substantially in recent years. Only in Singapore and New Zealand do about as many or more say relations with China are as important for their country as with the U.S.”
IMAGE CREDIT: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS