People across the world developed a fonder view of the United States after Joe Biden became president. But in China, it’s a different story.
China was the only country out of 14 nations recently surveyed by data firm Morning Consult that recorded a large drop in favorability toward the United States.
While 21 percent of respondents in China said they liked America in January, the rate fell to 17 percent in April. The percentage of those who disliked the U.S. rose from 65 to 74. Nearly half of the respondents held “very unfavorable views” toward America, up 7 percentage points since Biden’s inauguration.
The only other country where public perception of the U.S. fell is South Korea, although the change of 2 percentage points was not statistically significant. The other polled countries were Russia, India, Mexico, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. The surveys were conducted online among at least 1,100 adults in each country, Morning Consult said.
Between the two biggest economies, their deteriorating perceptions toward each other reflect the growing tensions between Beijing and Washington, which have not abated since Biden took office.
In his first speech to Congress on Wednesday, President Biden framed the U.S. relationship with China as one of intense rivalry for decades ahead.
“We’re in competition with China and other countries to win the 21st century,” he said.
“I spent a lot of time with President Xi… He’s deadly earnest about becoming the most significant, consequential nation in the world. He and others—autocrats—think that democracy can’t compete in the 21st century with autocracies because it takes too long to get consensus.”
Beijing has become more assertive in defending its interests in front of the new administration. Last month, the first face-to-face meeting between high-level U.S. and Chinese officials turned into a fiery exchange on a wide range of topics, from trade policies to human rights and diplomatic protocols.
Such clashes have been portrayed in Chinese media as proof of Western hostility toward a rising Asian power, which has generated strong nationalistic sentiment on China’s tightly-controlled Internet.
Dali Yang, a political science professor with the University of Chicago, said the urban population could develop less favorable attitudes toward America as they follow U.S.-China tensions in the media.
While President Trump sought to depict his Democratic challenger as “soft” on the Chinese government during the 2020 presidential race, Biden has in reality inherited and continued many of the Trump-era’s tough policies on Beijing, calling China a major competitor and threat to the U.S.
The Biden administration has so far maintained tariffs on Chinese goods worth some $370 billion imposed during Trump’s trade war with China. He has also slapped new sanctions on Chinese officials, who were accused of undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms.
In his address to Congress on Wednesday, Biden said he had made it clear to Chinese President Xi Jinping that America will stand up to unfair trade practices, maintain a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific, and keep up its human rights commitments.
Professor Yang said that compared with Trump, the Biden administration has also stepped up its engagement with America’s allies in competition with China. “In that sense, many Chinese understood it and saw the U.S., under the current administration, actually is tougher in some way,” he said.
Biden also does not enjoy the same clout on Chinese social media as Trump, who was favorably viewed as a freewheeling leader and a successful businessman by many Chinese people. Trump has several endearing or sarcastic nicknames in Chinese, and souvenirs featuring his image are still on sale in the country.
Some Chinese like Trump because they believed his chaotic governance was contributing to the decline of America.
On Friday, news about Trump considering running for president in 2024 was trending on the microblogging site Weibo. Many commentators jokingly called him an internet star and said they missed reading about him in the news.
“I like Trump, at least he is very funny,” said one of the most liked comments.
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This story has been updated with information about the methodology of the poll.