Polling shows Western opinions of China contradictory and two-sided: expert

By Sun Haoran Source:Globaltimes.cn Published: 2020/7/3 2:24:10

Medical workers pose for photos after seeing cured patients off at the Wuchang temporary hospital in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province, March 10, 2020. Photo: Xinhua

A Chinese expert said that the Western opinions on China are contradictory and have a two-sided nature regarding to a poll released recently showing China's growing influence, but increasingly viewed as negative, in Europe and the US after the COVID-19 outbreak.

"On one hand, the West recognizes the objectivity of China's growing influence; on the other hand, they still can't get over their ideology and self-superiority against China," Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Thursday.

The poll conducted in the US, France and Germany by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), the Bertelsmann Foundation and Institut Montaigne, surveyed more than 1,000 people over the age of 18 January 9-22 and May 11-19 to determine the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has on respondents, according to the GMF website.

Before the coronavirus crisis, the percentage of respondents who viewed China as most influential compared to the US, EU, and Russia was six percent in the US, 12 percent in Germany, and 13 percent in France, said the survey.

When re-surveyed in May, the percentages doubled to 14 percent in the US, 20 percent in Germany, and 28 percent in France, and respondents in the three countries still thought that the US was the most influential nation but less overwhelmingly.

"With the rapid development of China's economy in recent years, the trend that more and more Westerners regard China as the main force is rising," said Li. "The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this upward tendency."

Li added that contrast between China's active, fast and effective control and prevention of the coronavirus and US' handling of its epidemic which is poor and out of control, has narrowed the gap between China and the US in terms of influence.

The US saw 50,203 new COVID-19 cases reported nationwide on Wednesday - a record for one day, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

However, the poll said that Beijing's influence is seen as increasingly negative, with double digit increases since January 2020 - a 10 percentage point increase in France (up from 48 percent to 58 percent), a 10 percentage point increase in Germany (up from 51 percent to 61 percent), and an 11 percentage point increase in the US (up from 46 percent to 57 percent). 

Despite China's perceived influence, the survey found that majorities in both Germany and France said their countries should get tougher on Beijing over climate change, human rights and cybersecurity, said a report by AFP.

"The West has a complex sentiment in the face of the rise of China," Li pointed out. "They don't want the world to follow a path set by China in the future, and hope the world system could be still dominated by Western countries."

"However, the so-called West-centered world-system is not recognized by most countries in the world," Li noted, stressing that "with the rise of emerging economies, the unified Western voice has cracked and is no longer there."

According to the poll, the French are the most skeptical of American involvement in European defense and security and split between 45 percent saying the US should be involved and 41 percent saying the US should not be involved. Fifty-nine percent of Germans and 65 percent of Americans believe that the US should be somewhat or greatly involved.

Instead of treating the West as a whole, China should work together with the Western countries that support multilateralism and multipolarization to oppose unilateralism and hegemony, Li said.

"China's influence in the world was kind of an abstract idea before the crisis," said Martin Quencez, deputy director of the German Marshall Fund's Paris office, AFP reported.

"When you think about the dependency on China for masks and medical equipment, for instance, this has become very concrete," he said. 

Quencez expects a lasting impact, saying that the changes in perceptions were seen across generational and political lines. "It seems more structural than just a quick response to the crisis," he was quoted by the AFP report.


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