Source: Global Times Published: 2018-12-28
○ An annual survey on Chinese attitudes toward international events shows that most respondents think China-US ties were the most influential ties to China in 2018
○ Over 80 percent of interviewees say the West has the intention or has taken actions to contain China, but many Chinese are optimistic about the future
○ More Chinese are paying attention to India and African countries as ties with them are getting closer
China-US relations are the most important bilateral ties, and more Chinese listed the trade friction between them as the most impressive international event in 2018, according to a latest survey report on how Chinese people view the world.
The report, which was conducted by the Global Times' Poll Center, was based on a questionnaire survey in 10 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou in South China's Guangdong Province, Chengdu in Southwest China's Sichuan Province and Shenyang in Northeast China's Liaoning.
The respondents are residents more than 18 years old from these cities. The survey received 1,000 valid questionnaires.
Bumpy but forward
When asked which foreign relations have the biggest influence on China, 63.5 percent of the respondents picked China-US relations, the highest percentage among all China-foreign relations.
China-Russia relations rank second at 37.6 percent, while China-EU relations and China-Japan relations were picked by 21.7 percent and 12.7 percent of respondents respectively.
This is the 13th consecutive year that China-US relations were ranked the most important bilateral relations for China by Chinese respondents in the "Chinese sees the world" survey. However, this year's number is the lowest in history, down 13 percentage points from 2017.
A review of historical statistics shows that from 2009 to 2015, the percentage of respondents who picked China-US relations has been dropping steadily, but rose to almost 80 percent in 2016. Since then the number started to fall again.
In contrast, the importance of China-EU relations, in the eyes of the respondents, reached the highest level since 2010 this year.
Ni Feng, deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of American Studies, said that these statistics show that most Chinese still recognize the importance of China-US relations, and the influence of the US's China policy hasn't changed.
However, the Chinese public's expectations of the US have declined, and they are looking at other directions to avoid risks of disputes with the US, Ni said, noting that "the rise of the importance of China-EU relations in the survey is a natural reflection of this mentality."
In response to a question about changes of bilateral ties in 2018, 68.9 percent of the respondents believe China-US ties became strained, while 25.7 percent think there were more tensions in China-Japan ties. Nearly half of respondents expected more strained China-US ties in 2019.
Among the top five international events that impressed the respondents most in 2018, the US was involved with two - the China-US trade friction and the meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Nearly 60 percent of the respondents voted for the trade friction.
Wang Yiwei, a professor form School of International Relations from Renmin University of China, told the Global Times that the trade friction between China and the US was undoubtedly "the most shocking and hurtful" event in 2018.
"From the experience of the past four decades, China has opened to developed economies including the US, and the US has long been treated as a partner for getting China engaged in globalization. This year's trade friction has given a feeling to Chinese that the relationship between China and the US may encounter huge changes," Wang said.
Wang said that to many Chinese elites, the US is like a combination of "beauty and beast" - charming enough to attract followers, but with rebarbative and arbitrary diplomatic policies. And now the beauty seems gone forever, leaving only the beast.
"China also needs to adjust its policies toward the US and toward other regions in the world," Wang said.
Less optimistic but still hopeful
Asked what they think of the international political environment China faced in 2018 and if they think it posed a threat or an opportunity to China, over 80 percent of interviewees said they think the West has the intention or has already taken actions to contain China.
Among the respondents, 45 percent think the West has taken obvious actions to contain China, up 8.2 percentage points from the results in 2017. Meanwhile, 36.7 percent think the West "has the intention to contain China but hasn't taken obvious actions," 4.8 percentage points lower than in 2017.
Only 7.7 percent of respondents think Western containment of China is "only a rumor."
Although many sense growing containment of China by the West, Chinese are still optimistic about the future.
Poll results show that nearly 90 percent of respondents are optimistic about the global political environment China faces in the future, and 25.1 percent think it's going to improve. Among the respondents, 64.7 percent think the political environment has "improved in general, but friction will occur frequently." Only 1.3 percent of respondents think the global political environment will deteriorate.
It's worth mentioning that while in general the Chinese society is positive about the future, a rising number of Chinese said they are "relatively pessimistic."
Those who think international political environment has "improved in general, but frictions will occur frequently" rose 11.9 percentage points compared with 2017. Those who think the international political environment has improved dropped 13 percent compared with last year.
Florian Lupe, a China expert from Berlin, Germany, told the Global Times that he was not surprised to hear about the Chinese respondents' views since the West, led by the US, has hanged their attitude toward China this year.
"Aside from the technological and trade fields, which we all noticed, the US has also provoked China frequently in other areas, including militarily. Under US pressure, the EU has to take the US side to confront China, for example, about security concerns of Huawei, accusations of Chinese espionage, and enhancing investment thresholds for China," he said.
Lupe thought that compared with China's booming economy and enhanced political influence, the West, which had dominated the global order, is faced with an economic and immigration crisis. Unwilling to abdicate its leading position, the West must contain or try to contain China.
"But it is difficult to contain China. The West should accept China's rise with calm and an eye for real necessity," Lupe said.
Although more Chinese have felt a gradually obvious containment from the West, nearly 90 percent respondents held a positive view toward the future.
However, compared with data from last year, more respondents thought there will be more friction and less have chosen to believe "the situation would get better and better."
Zhang Yiwu, a professor from Peking University, told the Global Times that every Chinese can feel the change of the complicated international environment, but they have lost no confidence.
Part of the positive attitude comes from the confidence brought by the development of the country and the unchanged reform and opening-up path, and part is because that they believe in the interdependency between China and the world. Globalization is still the trend of the era, Zhang said.
Closer to India, Africa
This year's report also found that more Chinese are paying attention to India, due to the number of Indian movies in China, and African countries with China's closer ties with the continent.
When asking about their feeling to India, 49.2 percent of the respondents said that they love Indian movies, 35.9 percent of them were attracted by India's culture and 35.7 percent were impressed by the development of India's IT industry.
Compared with the result that more than 20 percent of the respondents said they loved the India people, nearly 40 percent disliked the India government.
Respondents had more optimistic views on China-India ties in 2018. In 2017, nearly half of the respondents thought China-India ties became strained. That number decreased to 15.2 percent this year. More of them believe that the two counties would be closer in the future.
As for the respondents' attitudes toward Africa, 44.5 percent of them expressed their interest in culture of the continent, 33.5 percent love the people and 57.5 percent expressed their objection to anti-government forces in Africa.
Wang Yiwei is a senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.