America's Allies See China, Not U.S., As World's Leading Economy Amid Coronavirus Crisis: Poll

Public opinion of China in the Western world has collapsed amid the coronavirus pandemic and increasing scrutiny of the human rights abuses being committed by the Chinese Communist Party, according to a Pew Research Center poll published Tuesday.

The 14-country survey found surging negative opinions of Beijing in most included nations, plus growing skepticism that President Xi Jinping can be relied on to do the right thing on the world stage. Most also believed that China had poorly handled the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the poll—involving nationally representative groups of 14,276 adults between June 10 and August 3—makes for grim reading for the U.S. too. Most respondents believe that China has handled the coronavirus pandemic better than its American adversaries, and now see China as the world's leading economy—even those in countries that remain staunch American allies.

Overall, Western respondents are far more skeptical of Beijing than a few years ago. A majority of those surveyed by phone in all 14 nations—the U.S., Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the U.K., Australia, Japan and South Korea—all had an unfavorable opinion of China.

In Australia, the U.K., Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the U.S., South Korea, Spain and Canada, the number of those with a negative view reached its highest since the Pew Research Center began polling on the subject more than 10 years ago.

In the U.S., for example, 73 percent of those polled had a negative view of China. This is up almost 20 points since President Donald Trump took office in 2017. This increased 13 percent in the past year, as Washington, D.C. and Beijing butted heads over COVID-19, economic and trade conflicts, territorial disputes across Asia, and human rights issues.

Negative views of China increased the most in Australia, where 81 percent of respondents now see the country unfavorably. This increased 24 percentage points since last year, likely driven by the coronavirus crisis and trade disputes between Canberra and Beijing. Chinese officials have been increasingly critical of Australia in recent months, accusing the country of racism and espionage.

Most respondents also do not trust Xi—accused of covering up the extent of China's coronavirus outbreak and the severity of the disease—to do the right thing on the world stage. Seventy seven percent of Americans surveyed do not trust Xi, up 27 percent in the last year. A significant majority in all 14 nations feel the same, negative opinion increasing in all over the last year.

Japanese respondents are the most critical of Xi, with 84 percent of respondents not trusting him on global affairs. This skepticism deepened by three points over the past year. The biggest recorded spike in negative opinion of the president over the past year was in the U.S.

Most also believe China has done a poor job of handling coronavirus, even though Beijing was able to snuff out its own initial outbreak through strict restrictions on the freedom of its citizens.

A median of 61 percent said China had done a bad job of handling the pandemic, while 37 percent said Beijing had done well. In the U.S., 64 percent believed China had performed poorly. The most critical were in east Asia, with 79 percent of Japanese and South Korean respondents viewing China's response negatively.

But while Western publics are lining up with America's shift to a more adversarial relationship with China, a minority of those surveyed expressed confidence in Washington's coronavirus response or economic future.

The U.S. has become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, recording more than 7.5 million cases and 210,000 deaths to date, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In by far the world's worst affected nation, Trump—now battling his own infection—has been widely criticized for his slow response, his repeated downplaying of the virus' severity, his politicization of public health measures and spreading his own misleading medical advice.

The vast majority of respondents—a median of 84 percent—said the U.S. has done a bad job of responding to coronavirus, including 52 percent of Americans surveyed.

The most critical were respondents in Denmark (92 percent) and South Korea (93 percent), but a negative view of America's handling of the crisis was common across all 14 nations. More than 80 percent of respondents in all the European countries included were critical of the American response.

Apart from the U.S., the most forgiving nation was Japan, where 79 percent of respondents were still critical of the American coronavirus response.

Respondents also picked China as the world's most dominant economy, even though officially the U.S. is still the largest and richest on the globe. A median of 48 percent across the 14 nations said China is now the world's dominant economy, compared with a median of 35 that chose America.

Only in the U.S., Japan and South Korea did more respondents say the U.S. is the world's leading economy ahead of China. The largest proportion of those surveyed chose China in Italy (57 percent), Germany (55 percent) and Belgium (54 percent). Even Canadians were more likely to choose China (47 percent) over the U.S. (36 percent).

In the U.S., 52 percent of respondents believed they were living in the world's leading economy, compared to 32 percent who picked China.

Donald Trump, CHina, US, coronavirus, poll, economy
People walk by the New York Stock Exchange in lower Manhattan on October 5, 2020 in New York City. ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images/Getty