China’s Image in the US Has Never Been Worse

Four in five Americans dislike China, a Gallup poll suggests. The feeling is mutual.
March 3, 2021, 6:32am
Xi jinping, china, us, gallup poll
President Xi Jinping of China (center) in 2017. Photo: DALE DE LA REY / POOL / AFP

Americans’ views of China have fallen to an all-time low since Washington established diplomatic relations with Beijing in 1979, according to a Gallup poll released on Monday.

Only 20 percent of Americans said they held a favorable opinion of China this year, compared to 33 percent in 2020. The drop followed the global spread of COVID-19, which emerged in central China and has killed more than half a million people in the United States.

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The new low coincides with rising hate crimes and discrimination against Asian Americans, both tied to the pandemic. In January, Biden issued an executive order to denounce the violence and vowed to combat racism and xenophobia against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The 2021 rating is significantly worse even than that in 1989 after the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown, in which Chinese troops killed likely hundreds of civilians during pro-democracy protests. At the time, about one in three Americans saw China favorably.

This dim view of China may give the Biden administration reason to continue Trump’s hawkish approach to Beijing. After more than one month in office, President Biden has shown no interest in undoing Trump-era tariffs on Chinese imports and restrictions on the use of Chinese technology

During his first call with Chinese President Xi Jinping last month, Biden also raised the issue of China’s repression of Muslim minorities in its Xinjiang region, in addition to Beijing’s “coercive and unfair” economic practices, the White House said.

The ill feeling is mutual. In China, the U.S. is the most disliked country among 14 developed nations, according to a 2020 survey. 77 percent of respondents said they had an unfavorable view of the U.S. In comparison, 79 percent of American respondents to the recent Gallup poll said they viewed China unfavorably.

Apart from China, Russia’s image in the U.S. also took a beating in 2021, with its favorability rating falling to a new low of 22 percent.

The U.S. intelligence community has blamed Russia for carrying out massive cyberattacks against the U.S. government and companies. Washington is reportedly considering options to retaliate, including freezing Russian President Vladimir V. Putin’s assets and exposing his links to oligarchs.

On Tuesday, the Biden administration announced its first sanctions against Russia for the poisoning of the opposition leader Alexei Navalny who, upon his return to Russia, has been sentenced to prison in a penal colony.

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