18th Sep 2021

Europeans more critical of China on rights

  • Shanghai: Europeans see China as the world's top economic power (Photo: Bernd Thaller)

Europeans, compared to other parts of the world, hold more critical views of China’s human rights record, according to a survey published by US think tank Pew on Tuesday (23 June).

Pew interviewed people from 40 countries, including the EU's six most populous countries: Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Spain and Poland.

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In France, 93 percent of respondents said the Chinese government does not respect the personal freedoms of its people; 92 percent of Germans, and 88 percent of Spanish were of the same view.

Respondents from Canada and the US responded in a similar fashion, but most regions in the world, especially Africa were much more positive. Only 28 percent of Russians answered No, and 52 percent answered Yes.

When asked about their general opinion of China, the six surveyed European countries, which account for 70 percent of the EU's population, were also less favourable towards the Asian country.

Thirty four percent of Germans held a favourable view of China, while 60 percent held an unfavourable one. The most favourable views within the European countries were held in France, where they were almost tied with negative views.

In some European countries gender and age revealed differences when it comes to how China is viewed.

Among Spaniards, 37 percent of those above age 50 have a favourable view of China, this rose to 56 percent among 18 to 29 year olds.

Forty-two percent of German men view China positively, compared to 25 percent of German women.

Political power

Of the five regions the researchers compared – the EU, Middle East, Latin America, Africa, and Asia/Pacific – it was the EU where most people believed that China would take over the US as a superpower.

Almost half of French, German, Spanish, and British respondents believed that China “will eventually replace the US as the world's leading superpower”.

Only 31 percent of Italians agreed, but that is because 26 percent were of the opinion that China has already replaced the US as leading superpower.

Around a third of Europeans believed China will never replace the US as superpower.

In the US itself, 10 percent believed China has replaced the US, and 36 percent that it will do so eventually.

Economic power

On the economy, there is substantial support in Europe for the idea that China is currently the world's number one economic power.

However, that notion was more popular a few years ago.

“Between 2009 and 2012, Europeans increasingly saw China, rather than the US, as the world’s economic leader. However, the pendulum has swung back in the other direction since 2012, and today Europeans are now essentially divided on this question”, the report said.

In France, 49 percent named China as the leading economic power, 40 percent named the US.

In Germany, 39 percent believed China to be the world's economic powerhouse; 27 percent said that honour belongs to the US, while 25 percent of Germans named EU has the main economic power in the world.

Of the forty surveyed countries, only five had 10 percent or more respondents believing that the EU is the world’s number one economy: Germany (25%), Ukraine (12%), Palestinian territories (11%), Vietnam (11%), and China (10%).


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