US image rebounds while ‘unfavourable’ views of China remain, global survey finds

A new survey has found that since Joe Biden came to power, positive views of the United States have rebounded across 17 advanced economies in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. Most continue to see China in an unfavourable light.

“Confidence in the US president has shot up precipitously since Joe Biden took office, while confidence in President Xi Jinping remains unchanged and near historic lows,” the survey, conducted by the US-based Pew research centre, found. The survey was conducted between 1 February and 26 May this year across 17 advanced economies as a part of Pew’s 2021 Global Attitudes survey wave. There were 18,850 respondents.

Last year the survey found that negative views of both the US and China had reached historic highs in many countries.

The pro-America opinion is the highest in South Korea, where 77% have positive views of the country, while around two-thirds or more in the US, Italy, Japan, France and the UK say the same. In every place except New Zealand, around half or more had a favourable opinion of the US.

Only two countries – Greece and Singapore – have a more positive view of China compared with last year. Three-quarters or more in Japan (88%), Sweden (80%), Australia (78%), South Korea (77%) and the US (76%) have negative views of China.

“In many places, these unfavourable views are at or near historic highs, though they are largely unchanged since last year,” the authors wrote.

The large majority of respondents also said that China “does not respect personal freedoms of its people”. In 15 of 17 publics, eight-in-10 have this impression. “This sense is also at or nearly historic highs in nearly every place surveyed, having risen significantly in countries like Italy, South Korea, Greece, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom since 2018,” Pew found.

On US-China leadership, when the question was asked last year, few respondents had confidence in either Xi or then-President Donald Trump to do the right thing when it came to world affairs. It found that across much of western Europe, more had confidence in Xi than Trump.

Half or more people in almost every place surveyed say it is “more important for their nation to have strong economic ties with the US than with China”. The views were different in Singapore (33%) and New Zealand (45%).

But the feelings towards China are not all negative. When it comes to the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, China scored higher than the US. A median of 49% respondents among the 17 publics surveyed say that China has done “a good job” in handling the coronavirus outbreak, whereas a median of 37% regard the US’s response positively.

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