Negative Views of China Spike in 9 Countries Due to Pandemic, Pew Survey Shows

Negative Views of China Spike in 9 Countries Due to Pandemic, Pew Survey Shows
Paramilitary police officers wearing face masks march next to the entrance of the Forbidden City in Beijing on Sept. 20, 2020. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images)
Frank Fang
Negative views of China reached their highest levels in more than a decade in nine countries, according to a recent survey conducted by the U.S.-based Pew Research Center.

Of the nine, Sweden had the highest percentage of unfavorable views of China at 85 percent, followed by Australia (81 percent), South Korea (75 percent), United Kingdom (74 percent), the United States (73 percent), Canada (73 percent), the Netherlands (73 percent), Germany (71 percent), and Spain (63 percent).

Pew polled 14,276 adults in 14 countries from June 10 to Aug. 3 this year, and published its findings on Oct. 6.

Out of all countries, Japan had the highest percentage of respondents who view China negatively, at 86 percent, although that's not a historic high for the Asian country. Meanwhile, Australia saw the biggest jump in negative views of China, an increase of 24 percentage points from a year ago.

Meanwhile, negative views of China in the United States jumped 13 percentage points from last year. And the percentage has increased by 20 points since President Donald Trump took office in 2017.

The U.S.–China relationship has deteriorated rapidly, as the Trump administration has turned up the heat on the regime in Beijing on a number of issues, including trade practices, intellectual property theft, and the current pandemic.

Pew also surveyed people’s views on how China has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, which is caused by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus. The virus, which originated in central China’s Wuhan city, has infected over 7.5 million people and caused the deaths of more than 211,900 in the United States.

According to the survey, of all respondents, a median of 61 percent said China has done a bad job handling the outbreak. The three countries most critical of China’s pandemic response are all in the Asia-Pacific: Japan and South Korea (both at 79 percent) and Australia (73 percent).

Meanwhile, 64 percent in the United States said China has done a bad job, three percentage points higher than Canada. Denmark led European countries with the most negative assessment of China’s pandemic response at 72 percent.

The respondents were also asked their opinions on how the World Health Organization (WHO) has handled the outbreak, as well as their own country.

South Korea held the most negative view of the WHO at 80 percent, followed by Japan (67 percent), Italy (45 percent), the United States (44 percent), and Australia (43 percent).

Of the 14 countries, only the United States and the UK had a majority of respondents—over 50 percent—saying that their own government has done a bad job in dealing with the outbreak.

Beijing initially went to great lengths to conceal the spread of the CCP virus in China, silencing eight whistleblower doctors—among them ophthalmologist Li Wenliang—after they warned on Chinese social media about a new form of pneumonia in late December 2019.
The WHO initially repeated Beijing’s claim that there was “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission” on Jan. 14. Beijing didn’t concede that the virus was contagious until Jan. 20.

Beijing’s poor handling of the outbreak also “colors people’s confidence” in Chinese leader Xi Jinping, according to the Pew report.

A median of 78 percent across the 14 countries surveyed said they have no confidence or not much confidence in Xi in doing “the right thing regarding world affairs.”

In the United States, 55 percent said they have no confidence at all and 22 percent said they don't have much confidence in Xi.

Of the three Asian countries surveyed, Japan showed the least confidence in Xi, with 53 percent saying no confidence and 31 percent saying not much confidence.

In Europe, Sweden and France had the highest percentages of people saying no confidence at all, both with 56 percent. 
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers U.S., China, and Taiwan news. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.