China’s influence increasingly positive in Western countries

The newly elected French President, François Hollande, has recently stated that China’s relationship to the EU is fundamentally adversarial. This is just the latest of many calls from Western officials trying to address a perceived unfairness in the world’s trade system, an unfairness for which they consider China mainly responsible.
Yet, despite this official “hostile” rhetoric, GlobeScan’s 2012 Country Ratings Poll finds that the global public’s opinion of China has improved significantly over the past year. The poll asked respondents to rate the influence of 16 countries and the European Union. On average, in 21 tracking countries, 50 per cent of respondents rate China’s influence in the world positively, while 31 per cent consider it to be negative—a substantial improvement since 2011, with positive views increasing by four points and negative views dropping by the same amount. China has now overtaken both the EU and the US on this measure. This improving trend is remarkable in Western countries—although in some of them negative perceptions continue to outnumber the positive. In Australia (61%), Canada (53%), the UK (57%), the US (42%), and Germany (42%), the proportion of positive views has never been higher since tracking began in 2005. Opinion has grown more positive in Spain and France as well.
A subsample of respondents was asked to say which of four possible areas was most influential in their judgment—foreign policy, the economy (including products and services), traditions and culture, or the way people are treated. Of those who think Chinese influence is positive, 51 per cent say this is because of China’s economy, products, and services. While China certainly triggers some feelings of apprehension—the economy is also the top reason (30%) cited by respondents who hold unfavourable views of China—these positive results suggest that publics increasingly acknowledge that China’s economic power has become vital to the world economy.
Finding from the 2012 GlobeScan/BBC Country Ratings Poll
This post was written by former GlobeScan Research Director, Sam Mountford.