China’s surge to economic superpower status in recent decades has been well received by its trading partners, but Pew research released Thursday indicates global opinion is divided on what its emergence as a military power signifies for global politics.
Celebrations this year of the 70th anniversary of China’s founding come as the nation has embraced the role of patron of overseas development and sponsor of massive infrastructure projects in emerging economies.
In 2013, officials in the world’s second largest economy launched the Belt and Road Initiative, an infrastructure plan of unprecedented scale that will develop railroads, energy pipelines and highways from Asia to Europe.
Nearly two-thirds of Australian residents (65%) told Pew researchers they believe China’s economic growth is generally a good thing for economies, while 83% of Nigerians and 55% of Japanese said the same, the report found.
But China’s neighbours tend to be unsettled by its economic might, according to the Pew report: 61% of South Koreans and 75% of Japanese residents believe Chinese investment is a bad thing.
Fifty-four percent of respondents in India and 44% in Turkey also told researchers that Chinese investment would bring negative risks to their countries, the report found.
But even nations that welcome China’s economic prowess are unsettled by its growing military strength.
Two thirds of Australians told Pew researchers they believe investment from China is a bad thing, potentially due to concerns over Chinese influence in domestic matters. That concern was shared by only 14% of Nigerians.
In India and Turkey, 61% and 51% of respondents, respectively, said they believe China’s growing economy is a bad thing.
The Pew report found that China’s neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region were more likely to see U.S. economic influence in their country as a positive, although more people overall told Pew that China’s influence is more positive than the U.S.
A separate Pew survey found that residents in 17 Countries, including Kenya, Brazil and Israel named the U.S. as the most dependable ally in the current political moment.
Israelis were most likely to name the U.S. as a trustworthy ally at 82%, while 71% of South Koreans and 63% of Japanese said the same.
But 20% of Canadians and 13% of South Koreans also said the U.S. represents the greatest threat to their nations going forward, the Pew report found.
Nigerians, Kenyans and South Africans were most likely to name China as their most trusted partner.
While China’s influence on the world stage has grown in recent years, it has not led to favourable opinions of China by over 38,000 residents from 34 nations surveyed by Pew.
President Donald Trump has been embroiled in a trade feud with China over U.S. technology sharing, imposing high tariffs on certain Chinese goods.
China also faces international condemnation for its treatment of over 1 million Uyghurs, a minority ethnic population which China has placed into camps where they’re forced to renounce their culture.
The report found 41% of residents from the 34 nations including the U.S., Canada and Sweden had unfavourable opinions of China.
In the U.S. and Canada, 60% and 67% of residents, respectively, hold unfavourable views of China while 85% of Japanese and 70% of Swedes say the same, according to the Pew survey which was conducted between May 13 and Oct. 2.
In Russia, 71% of residents hold favorable views of China while 70% of Nigerians and 68% of Lebanese said the same, the report found.
Views of Chinese President Xi Jinping were also negative with a median of 41% of residents from the 34 countries saying they lack confidence in his leadership on the world stage.
Pew found that younger people in surveyed 19 Countries including Brazil, Mexico and Lithuania tend to have favourable views of China, with adults aged 18 to 29 having a more positive stance on the country than adults aged 50 and older.
Over two-thirds of young adults in Brazil, 67%, said they have positive views on China while only 40% of older adults shared that opinion, the report found.