Western views of China hit new lows amid COVID-19 pandemic: Survey

WASHINGTON: Western views of China have soured sharply amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with record numbers in major developed countries seeing the Asian power unfavourably, a survey showed on Tuesday (Oct 6).

The 14-nation study by the Pew Research Center found a sharp deterioration of perceptions on China in the United States, where President Donald Trump has repeatedly sought to pin blame on Beijing for the pandemic.

Seventy-three per cent of Americans see China unfavourably, an increase of nearly 20 percentage points since Trump took office in 2017 on a nationalist agenda.

Negativity toward China shot up most sharply in Australia, which has faced retaliation from its major trading partner as it largely backs its US ally.

A record 81 per cent of Australians now see China unfavourably, up 24 percentage points from a year earlier, it said.

Negative views of China were also at all-time highs in Britain, Canada, Germany, The Netherlands, South Korea, Spain and Sweden.

China initially suppressed news of the mysterious respiratory disease when it emerged in Wuhan, although the authorities have since sought to cast themselves as victorious in defeating the virus through aggressive efforts.

Across the nations surveyed, 61 per cent said that China had done a bad job in dealing with the outbreak.

The only nation or institution that got worse marks was the United States, which accounts for one-fifth of the more than one million people who have died from COVID-19.

An earlier Pew study found that the image of the United States had also plunged to all-time lows in other wealthy democracies as COVID-19 heightened concerns over Trump’s leadership.

The latest survey marks a reversal from largely positive views of China by the Western public in the 2000s.

Tensions have also risen with China over its trading policies, its assertive posture toward neighbours and its human rights record, including the mass incarceration of Uighurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic-speaking people.