Distrust of China Jumps to New Highs in Democratic Nations

Distrust of China Jumps to New Highs in Democratic Nations

Xi Jinping celebrates China’s battle against the coronavirus as a success. But in the United States and other wealthy democracies, the pandemic has driven negative views of China to new heights, a survey published on Tuesday showed.

The illness, deaths and disruption caused by the coronavirus in those countries have intensified already strong public distrust of China, where the virus emerged late last year, the results from the Pew Research Center’s survey indicated.

“Unfavorable opinion has soared over the past year,” said the survey on views of China taken this year in 14 countries including Japan, South Korea, Canada and Germany, Italy and other European nations. “Today, a majority in each of the surveyed countries has an unfavorable opinion of China.”

The results illustrate how much negative opinions of China have taken hold around the world in recent years. To China’s leaders, such wary attitudes could present obstacles for the Communist Party’s ambitions of expanding Beijing’s influence. The tide of public distrust could make cooperation harder even on issues where national interests align.

“Public opinion is a powerful constraint,” said Natasha Kassam, a former Australian diplomat who is a research fellow at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, where she studies public opinion and foreign policy. “We can see in both Australia and the United States, for example, souring public opinion has served as a powerful driver for governments to be particularly vocal” about China.

The U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, was in Tokyo on Tuesday for meetings with his counterparts from Japan, Australia and India — all nations that have had icy relations with China. Mr. Pompeo is often condemned by Chinese officials as an ideological warrior bent on subduing Beijing.