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4th Jul 2022

Europeans think China biggest threat to world security

  • Europeans' perception of China has been shaped by recent negative press coverage (Photo: Peter Morgan)

China's image abroad has suffered a blow, with an opinion survey in the five largest EU states showing that most Europeans see Beijing as the greatest threat to world stability.

According to a survey conducted by the Harris agency for the Financial Times and published on Tuesday (15 April), 35 percent of Europeans - coming from Germany, France, the UK, Italy and Spain - labelled China a bigger threat than any other state.

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In 2007, 19 percent of Europeans polled singled out the rapidly growing power in the east as the chief danger. In 2006, it was 12 percent.

The most recent shift in public opinion is seen as a result of China's crackdown on Tibetan protesters. In March, the Chinese authorities suppressed anti-Beijing protests in Lhasa with a show of force, prompting international condemnation.

Several European capitals also saw civil protests as the Olympic flame makes it way across the globe before it reaches China, the host country of the summer Olympic Games in August.

According to Mark Leonard from the European Council on Foreign Relations, speaking to the FT, the Europeans' knowledge about China is primarily based on news coverage, something that was "recently unfavourable".

"The story of the last six months has been about China as a threat in Darfur and in Tibet," he said.

The results of the FT/Harris poll suggest that Italians have adopted the most critical stance towards China, with 47 percent singling out the country as the chief threat. It was only 26 percent in 2007.

"China is a symbol of what Italians dislike about globalisation," Marta Dassu from a Rome-based think-tank, the Aspen Institute Italia, told the FT, referring to Beijing's image of being an unfair trade competitor due to its cheap exports.

The chart continues with France where 36 percent of people rank China as the biggest threat to world stability, up from 22 percent last year. Germany (35 percent) and the UK (27 percent) follow, up from 18 percent and 16 percent respectively.

Only the Spaniards continue to see the US as a bigger threat than China, attributing to the two powers 41 percent and 28 percent respectively.

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