October 16, 2012

China’s public getting more negative about the world

Richard Wike, Associate Director, Pew Global Attitudes Project

Special to CNN

Tensions are mounting between China and its Asian neighbors, most recently over long-disputed territories in the South China and East China Seas. At the same time, the negative coverage that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received in state-run Chinese media during her trip to Beijing last month underscored ongoing differences between China and the U.S. on a host of issues. But tensions like these are not just apparent at the diplomatic level or in government propaganda. Now, as China prepares for its once-in-a-decade leadership transition, the Chinese public is increasingly hostile toward rival nations, according to polling by the Pew Global Attitudes Project. This can only complicate Beijing’s relations with its neighbors and global rivals in the years ahead.

In particular, Chinese sentiment about the U.S. has cooled over the last few years. In 2010, 68 percent of Chinese characterized their country’s relationship with the U.S. as one of cooperation, while just 8 percent said it was one of hostility. Now, only 39 percent describe ties in terms of cooperation and 26 percent say they are hostile.

The Chinese were fairly pleased with President Barack Obama’s election, but since he took office his ratings in China have fallen dramatically. Of course, the People’s Republic is not alone in this regard – Obama’s approval has declined at least somewhat since he took office in most countries regularly surveyed by Pew. However, the drop off in China has been especially steep. In 2009, 62 percent of Chinese said they had a lot or some confidence in Obama to do the right thing in world affairs, while just 23 percent had little or no confidence. Today, the Chinese public is almost evenly split – 38 percent express confidence; 41 percent lack confidence.

Read the full commentary at CNN