Surveys Show China and the US Don’t Like Each Other, and the World Dislikes Them Both

The findings reveal that in the competition to be the world’s biggest villain, the U.S. and China are neck and neck.
December 28, 2020, 9:47am
China, US, Donald Trump,
This combination of pictures created on May 14, 2020 shows recent portraits of
China's President Xi Jinping (L) and US President Donald Trump. Photo: AFP/ Pool

It’s no secret that China and the U.S. haven’t been the best of friends lately. But political antagonism appears to be seeping into public consciousness.

Between October and November and before the U.S. election, a team of researchers surveyed 1,064 adults in China about their attitudes toward other countries. Out of a list of 14 developed countries, the U.S emerged as the most disliked among the Chinese public, with 77 percent of respondents holding a “very unfavorable” or “somewhat unfavorable” view of America.

But the negative impressions are mutual. In an earlier survey conducted by the Pew Research Center from June to August, 73 percent of American respondents had “very unfavorable” or “somewhat unfavorable” views of China. 

Pew researchers surveyed more than 14,000 adults across 14 countries, namely, the U.S., Canada, Sweden, Denmark, the U.K., Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, Australia, and South Korea. In each of the nations, the majority of respondents held negative attitudes toward China.

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However, despite the sweeping negative assessment of China among many Western nations, researchers found that the Chinese public exhibited more tempered attitudes toward the same countries. Besides the U.S. and Japan, the other 12 developed countries were viewed in a generally favorable light by Chinese respondents. 

“We were somewhat surprised by the tiered responses. We did not have a clear expectation as to what the pattern would be like but had thought that the negativity would generally be high,” said Dr. Songying Fang, a political science professor at Rice University and one of the researchers for the survey.

“But Australia, for example, fared better than we had expected given many troubles that the two countries are going through right now,” Fang told VICE World News. Australia-China relations have deteriorated rapidly this year, from China’s imposition of tariffs on Australian exports to the detention and evacuation of Australian journalists in China.

Writing in the Diplomat, Fang and co-authors Adam Y. Liu and Xiaojun Li explained that their study came as a response to the Pew survey and an attempt to shed light on how “ordinary Chinese view the rest of the world.”

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As China and the U.S. end the year with a friendly dose of mutual distaste, the findings probably come as little surprise. The events of the past year—trade tensions, pandemic politics, the unpredictable presidency of Donald Trump, and diplomatic squabbles—have strained relations between the two powers, which established official ties in 1979.

According to Pew researchers, the majority (a median of 61 percent) of respondents across the 14 countries thought that China’s coronavirus outbreak management was “bad.” The virus was believed to have originated in a wet market in Wuhan, though researchers are still studying how it began and are set to arrive in Wuhan in January to investigate its origins.

But the same Pew survey revealed that more people (a median of 84 percent) felt the same for the U.S. And while international confidence in Chinese President Xi Jinping is at an all time low, even more are disillusioned with Donald Trump, who is leaving office next month after losing to Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

So in addition to disliking each other, the U.S. and China are apparently neck and neck in a competition to be the world’s biggest villain.