New Zealanders’ perception of China has shifted dramatically over the first half of 2022, with the majority now viewing the Asian nation as a “threat,” according to a recent survey.
A mini-survey conducted by Asia New Zealand Foundation in June found that 58 percent of New Zealanders view China as a “threat” and a record low 13 percent saw the country as a “friend.”
This is a significant shift from the main survey conducted in November 2021, where 37 percent viewed China as threatening, and 29 percent saw China as friendly.
It comes after Beijing initiated moves to establish military ties within the Pacific, on New Zealand’s doorstep, as well as its refusal to condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The June mini-survey revealed that negative sentiment towards Russia has similarly surged, with 79 percent of New Zealanders seeing Russia as a threat compared to 45 percent in November.
The main survey revealed that prior to the war in Ukraine, North Korea, Russia, and China were named as the three most significant threats to the country.
Despite the increasing perception of China as a threat, New Zealanders still believe it is one of the two most important countries—tied with Australia— to develop economic ties.
The Asia New Zealand Foundation executive director Simon Draper noted that the New Zealand-China relationship had been featured more prominently in public discourse, so questions were asked about it in the survey.
“Three-quarters of New Zealanders would like to see New Zealand broaden trade beyond the Chinese market and most (53 percent) support our political leaders regularly engaging with Chinese counterparts,” Draper said.
Further, 63 percent support travel and trade sanctions on Chinese politicians for human rights abuses and 45 percent oppose joint military exercises with China.
New Zealand’s Friends
The survey also revealed that Australia remains New Zealand’s closest nation despite a slight dip in friendliness rating, followed by its other long-time allies, the United Kingdom and Canada.
New Zealanders’ perception towards the United States also received a significant boost after Joe Biden became president, with 61 percent rating the country friendly compared to 50 percent in 2020.
The percentage of people who viewed the United States as a threat also dropped from 20 percent to 11 percent in the same period.
Additionally, the survey revealed that Kiwis saw the United Kingdom as the major power that is most trusted to act responsibly, followed by Japan.
While New Zealand maintains the tightest bonds with its traditional allies, New Zealanders increasingly believe that developing strong ties with Asia is important for the country’s future.
Over 2,300 people aged 15 and over participated in the November survey, while 1,186 people participated in the mini poll that repeated three questions from the major survey.