Richard Wike, associate director of the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, writes for CNN on China’s growing pains as it develops towards superpower status. Many have marveled at how China successfully lifted millions out of poverty, transforming at a speed and scale the world had never seen before. But public opinion has soured, and China faces perception problems related to its military power, economic might and political model, writes Wike:
More than nine-in-ten Japanese and South Koreans say China’s increasing military might is a bad thing, a view also held by 71 percent of Australians and two thirds of Filipinos agree. Meanwhile, China’s increasingly assertive territorial claims in the South and East China seas are generating serious security concerns. Nine-in-ten Filipinos say territorial disputes with China are a big problem, as do 82 percent of Japanese, three quarters of South Koreans, and 62 percent of Indonesians.
Meanwhile, although China’s prolonged period of economic growth is impressive, its economic power gets mixed reviews across the globe. China’s economic influence is generally viewed positively in Latin America and Africa, but there are reservations in many Western nations, particularly the United States. For example, a poll we conducted last year in collaboration with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace found widespread worries about an economic threat from China. Big majorities described the amount of U.S. debt held by China, job losses to China, and the trade deficit with China as very serious problems.
[…] Survey findings also highlight the limitations of the Chinese political model. Across the nations polled by Pew Research, a median of only 36 percent say the Chinese government respects the personal freedoms of its citizens in contrast to the 70 percent who think Washington respects Americans’ personal liberties. Ultimately, the biggest challenge for Beijing’s public diplomacy may be that it doesn’t offer a political model that guarantees the democratic rights and institutions that people in regions across the world want. [Source]
Wike draws a comparison with global opinions of the U.S. throughout its history, noting interesting similarities and differences.