People around the world see China as “confident,” “belligerent” and “arrogant,” state-run media reported yesterday in an unusually direct survey of attitudes toward the country.
Only 13 percent of respondents in the poll by the Global Times newspaper described China as “peaceful,” a sign that Beijing’s territorial disputes with its Asian neighbors have taken a toll on its image. It also concluded that “the closer you are to China, the more likely you are to have a negative view of it.”
The Global Times tends to take a nationalistic stance and is close to the Chinese Communist Party. With the exception of rivals such as the US or Japan, state-run media coverage of relations with other countries normally concentrates on the positive, and it is rare for criticism of China to be reported.
However, in the survey of 14,400 people in 14 countries, 30.3 percent of respondents called China “confident” in international affairs, with 29.4 percent describing it as “belligerent,” while “complicated” was chosen by 28.1 percent.
“People also describe China with words such as ‘tough,’ ‘arrogant’ and ‘cooperative,’” the paper added, with each of them chosen by about 25 percent of respondents.
The report cited the limited international influence of Chinese media as one possible reason for negative perceptions of China abroad.
The survey was conducted last month in countries including the US, Russia, Japan, India, Vietnam, South Korea, South Africa, Britain, the Philippines and Brazil. The paper did not detail the methodology of the study, carried out by the Global Times Global Poll Center, but described it as “the first political survey conducted by a Chinese media agency on a global scale as the country grows increasingly concerned about its soft power.”
The paper quoted Swaran Singh of Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi as saying the adjectives used “can be seen as elements of any rapidly evolving rising power.”
“China needs to develop its soft power,” it cited Sunjoy Joshi, of India’s Observer Research Foundation, as saying. “It needs to be gentle in its conduct of neighborhood diplomacy. Similarly it must not allow its economic diplomacy to be viewed as neocolonialism or 21st-century resource colonization.”
Regional territorial tensions were ratcheted up last month with China’s declaration of an air defense identification zone over part of the East China Sea, a move that prompted a backlash among the US, Japan and South Korea.
About 25.4 percent of respondents from neighboring countries said they “like” China, the survey said, compared with 36.0 percent from non-neighboring countries.
The poll also showed that only 12.1 percent of respondents get news about China through Chinese media programs broadcast in their countries, while 44.4 percent said they learn about China from “internationally recognized media, such as CNN and the BBC,” while 39.5 percent cited their local television stations as a source.