China’s image in the world remained very negative in 2021 with unfavorable opinions at their highest level in twenty years, according to the Pew Research Center’s annual survey. The latter, conducted in 17 developed economies, is based on 16,254 telephone interviews carried out from March 12 to May 26 in Europe, Asia and Canada, and on 2,596 interviews carried out from 1is to February 7 in the United States.
Thus, 67% of French people surveyed, 76% of Americans, 77% of South Koreans or 80% of Swedes see China negatively in 2021. In Europe, the average of unfavorable opinions is 66%. Greece is an exception, with a narrow majority (52%) of positive opinions.
The landscape has changed little between 2020 and 2021, estimates the Pew Research Center, for which the country’s reputation is at “Historically low levels” in most developed economies. On the one hand, bilateral disputes have sharply worsened the situation in several countries – trade war and Chinese interference in Australia, showdown over the incarceration of the daughter of the founder of Huawei in Canada, the expulsion of the ambassador after a aggressive campaign in Sweden.
The hardening of the communist regime of Xi Jinping also increases the already ultramajoritarian feeling (88% on average) according to which China “Does not respect the individual freedoms of its people” : 91% of Australians (against 74% in 2013) or 84% of the British (against 71% in 2013) are convinced. The arrival of Joe Biden at the White House, by comparison, reinforced the predominantly positive image of the United States.
Colossal propaganda effort
But, on the other hand, Beijing’s management of the Covid-19 crisis has produced more contrasting effects: 49% of respondents think China has managed the pandemic well, 43% being convinced otherwise. “In twelve countries surveyed in both 2020 and 2021, the share of those who approve of the Chinese response has increased significantly, and in some places like Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands, it has grown by more. minus 15 points “, points out the poll.
It should be remembered that the year 2020 was marked by intense information and disinformation campaigns led by Beijing, with the triple aim of making people forget the virus. “Chinese”, stigmatized by Donald Trump, to denigrate the action of Western democracies against the pandemic and to promote an image of a cooperative actor through Chinese mask diplomacy.
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