Chinese views of the United States and Russia after the Russian invasion of Ukraine – The Diplomat
Chinese views of the United States and Russia after the Russian invasion of Ukraine – The Diplomat

Chinese views of the United States and Russia after the Russian invasion of Ukraine – The Diplomat

Weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, the Chinese were unapologetically positive towards Russia and very negative towards the United States, according to a public opinion poll conducted online in mainland China with a research sample of 3,039 respondents in March 2022. The recently published report “Chinese views of the world at the time of the war between Russia and Ukraine“Summarizes some of the key findings of the study and provides a glimpse of public sentiment in China when it comes to views of the world – and China’s place in it – at a time when the Chinese public was most aware of the Russia-Ukraine war. .

The study was conducted by an international team of researchers coordinated by Palacky University Olomouc, Czech Republic, as part of their research project “Sinophone Borderlands – Interaction on the edge”, Funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

Among the 25 countries that respondents were asked about (Figure 1), Russia was the most positively perceived country with 80 percent of respondents saying they saw Russia in a positive light, while only 12 percent had negative views. The United States, on the other hand, was the most negatively viewed country in China with just over 60 percent of respondents perceiving it negatively, and 31 percent having positive attitudes.

The other very positively perceived countries among Chinese respondents were Pakistan (73 percent), Singapore (66 percent), North Korea (62 percent) and Germany (61 percent). In turn, other highly negative countries included India (56 percent), Japan (54 percent), Vietnam (48 percent), South Korea (47 percent), and Ukraine (46 percent).

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To get a more nuanced picture of the perceptions of the United States and Russia, we asked two open-ended questions in which respondents gave their first associations to the respective country, and also a justification for why their image of the United States or Russia got better or worse.

As for the United States (see Figure 2), the most common association was “hegemon”, while other common terms were “advanced”, “developed” and “powerful”, but also “bossy”, “war”, “bandit”. “and” so split. “

In the Russian case, the most common association was “warrior nation”, followed by words such as “Putin”, “vodka”, “big”, “bears”, “mighty”, “war with Ukraine” and “Sino-Russian friendship.”

The picture we get is that both the United States and Russia are seen as powerful, but American power is seen mostly in negative terms, while Russia’s is almost exclusively positive. It may be remarkable, however, that the perception of Russia among the Chinese seems to be somewhat stereotypical and attached to the current leader and perhaps lacks deeper social roots. Therefore, these perceptions can easily be open to change.

On the question of how positively or negatively the respondents assess the foreign policy of the great powers (Figure 4), only Russia (besides China) was seen positively, while the US topped the negative position ahead of India, Japan and the EU.

Why did the Chinese respondents have such views in March 2022? It is safe to say that they were not disturbed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine – probably a major violation of China’s long foreign principle of respect for other countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity. On the contrary: the Chinese still saw Russia in general, and Russian foreign policy in particular, in extremely positive terms, while at the same time considering it a strong country.

It would be interesting to repeat the study to see if growing evidence of Russia’s inability to achieve its goals in Ukraine would change the Chinese perception of Russia in some respects.

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Overall, the Chinese respondents seemed to be significantly influenced by the quality of bilateral relations with a given country – or more precisely, how this bilateral relationship is presented by Chinese media. In addition to Russia and the United States, this is particularly evident in the case of European countries (such as Germany or France), which are perceived relatively positively, while EU foreign policy is also seen as somewhat positive (especially compared to US foreign policy). The Chinese also expect the people of these countries to have a relatively positive view of China. In fact, Germans and French are quite negative about China.

Therefore, the images of the Chinese may be the result of Chinese official tales, which often focus on blaming the United States and presenting Europe as a victim of American influence without its own agency.

Another important result of the study is the Chinese’s confidence in China. On the question of how militarily and economically powerful they perceive relevant superpowers, China was seen as the most powerful, while China’s culture was also perceived as the most attractive, and Chinese universities were the most recommended.

We also asked how willing the respondents would be to have a COVID-19 vaccine produced by different countries. Again, Chinese vaccines were far more trusted than anyone else. This appears to be the result of more than two years of propaganda that paints the Western response to the pandemic in negative colors, presents Western vaccines as ineffective, and even proposes theories that the virus originated from a U.S. bioweapon. However, this may be a problem now as Chinese vaccines do not seem to work as effectively against the newer variants of COVID-19 as some Western ones.

Overall, it can be observed that a few weeks inside the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Chinese were very positive towards Russia, very negative towards the United States and very confident towards China. These findings should be seen as a snapshot of public attitudes at a particular time when the Chinese public was very aware of the war between Russia and Ukraine, and before the COVID-19 crisis in China escalated in late March. It would be really interesting to see how these views could have changed a few weeks or months later.

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